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In re Estate of Massey

June 26, 2008

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF CECIL C. MASSEY, SR., DECEASED.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Salem County, Docket No. CP-12-2003.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 13, 2008

Before Judges Cuff and King.

This is an appeal from an order of Judge Bowen, now retired, of June 7, 2007 removing the co-executor, Carol Ann Sickler, and ruling on the nature of certain assets comprising the estate. The judge issued a detailed eleven-page written opinion on May 17, 2006.

On this appeal Carol Ann Sickler, the co-executor, raises these two objections to the judge's ruling:

Point One

There were no legal grounds to remove Appellant from her position as Co- Executrix and said removal was contrary to Decedent's Will.

Point Two

All Exhibits marked for identification by Defendant-Counterclaimant should have been admitted into evidence.

We conclude that the appeal is without merit and affirm for the reasons expressed by Judge Bowen in his written opinion which was supported by his sound findings of facts and conclusions of law and his justified exercise of discretion with respect to his evidentiary rulings.

We review two specific claims: the removal of Carol as co- executor and her claim for credits against any purchase by her from the estate. We first conclude that Carol's removal was sustainable, certainly in view of the judge's ultimate findings as to the lack of validity of Carol's claims with respect to the property in the estate. The judge relied on N.J.S.A. 3B:14- 21(f) (Removal for Cause), i.e., neglect or refusal to perform duties which may hinder or prevent the administration of the estate. The judge's findings to this effect are clear and supported by the version of the evidence which he found credible.

The judge said with respect to Carol's conduct and her conflicts:

Carol Ann Sickler's insistence that the above real estate is not part of the estate of Cecil Massey, nor the personalty located on it, to be distributed to the residual beneficiaries, after the distribution of the 15 acre portion described in paragraph FOURTH, and after sale to her at the price of the date of death ...


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