Judy K. Harris, Personal Representative of the Estate of Gary W. Stahl, Appellant-Defendant,
Beth Ann Davis and Amy L. Westerman, Appellee-Plaintiff.
from the Sullivan Circuit Court The Honorable Robert E.
Hunley II, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 77C01-1609-PL-437
Attorneys for Appellant Jeffrey B. Kolb Charles E. Traylor
Kolb Roellgen & Kirchoff LLP Vincennes, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellees William M. Olah Sarah L. Wachala
Wilkinson, Goeller, Modesitt, Wilkinson & Drummy, LLP
Terre Haute, Indiana
Summary and Issue
Judy Harris, as personal representative of the Estate of Gary
Stahl ("Gary's Estate"), appeals the trial
court's judgment in favor of Beth Davis and Amy Westerman
("Beth and Amy"). Gary's Estate raises four
issues for our review, one of which we find dispositive:
whether the trial court's judgment is clearly erroneous.
Concluding the trial court's judgment is clearly
erroneous, we reverse its order in favor of Beth and Amy.
and Procedural History
In 1991, William Lawrence Stahl created the Revocable Trust
Agreement of William Lawrence Stahl ("William's
Trust"). From 1991 until his death in 2011, William
amended his trust twice. The latest amendments to
William's Trust provided that, upon William's death,
his children, Gary Stahl and Rita Springer, were each to
receive one-half of the assets of William's Trust. Rita
would receive one-half of William's Trust's assets
outright; however, Gary's portion was to be held in a
separate residuary trust during Gary's lifetime. William
also amended his trust to appoint Gary's daughters, Beth
and Amy, as co-successor trustees of William's Trust.
Beth and Amy are also co-trustees of the residuary trust.
William's Trust further provided Gary was not to receive
any of the principal of the residuary trust, but could only
receive income generated by its assets. Upon Gary's
death, the residuary trust was to be distributed in equal
parts to Beth and Amy.
On numerous occasions before William's death, Gary
received money from William's Trust in return for a
promise to repay the money with interest. William died in May
of 2011. Upon his death, his family began administering his
estate and preparing to distribute his assets in the manner
provided in William's Trust. In June of 2011, Beth and
Amy, as co-trustees of William's Trust, and Gary signed a
Settlement Statement memorializing the total amount Gary owed
from his dealings with his father. The Settlement Statement
I, Gary W. Stahl, acknowledge that I owe the Trust of my
father, William Lawrence Stahl (deceased May 2, 2011) for
funds advanced to me in the amount of Eighty Thousand Dollars
($80, 000.00) to be deducted from my share of the William
Lawrence Stahl Revocable Trust Agreement dated November 15,
Appendix, Volume 2 at 62.
On February 10, 2012, Gary, Rita, Beth, and Amy, signed a
in an attempt to terminate William's Trust. The Family
Settlement Statement provides, in relevant part,
Rita Springer . . . acknowledges that Gary Stahl owes
[William's Trust] . . . the total sum of $80, 000 only,
and Gary Stahl . . . acknowledges/consents to the transfer of
the first $80, 000 of financial assets from [William's
Trust] . . . to Rita Springer, and to the transfer of the
$80, 000 obligation owed by Gary Stahl to the Residuary Trust
f/b/o Gary Stahl under [William's Trust] . . . .
Id. at 65-66. The Family Settlement Statement also
includes a step-by-step process for liquidating William's
Trust. Steps 1 and 2 of the process involve transactions
between the parties not relevant to this appeal. However,
Step 3 states, in relevant part,
Result at this point: [William's Trust] owns half
interest in N 40 of 100 ac[res] . . . and 100% of S 60
ac[res] plus financial assets (that have been reduced by the
$80, 000 paid to Rita to off-set Gary's debt (that [debt]
having been distributed to Gary's Trust- Gary then owes
his trust, not Rita, that $80, 000) . . . .)[.]
Id. at 69.
On February 20, 2016, Gary died. Thereafter, Judy Harris,
Gary's personal representative, filed a petition to
probate Gary's will. Gary's will disinherited Beth
and Amy. On April 7, 2016, Beth and Amy, as co-trustees of
Gary's residuary trust, filed a verified statement of
claim against Gary's Estate claiming their father's
estate owed $80, 000 to Gary's residuary trust. The
verified statement of the claim alleged as follows:
2. The amount of indebtedness due claimant from the
decedent's estate is $80, 000.00 plus accrued interest at
the rate of 8% annum from and after May 2, 2011 - principal
and interest aggregating $111, 316.16 as of March 23, 2016 .
. . .
3. The consideration for this debt is: $80, 000.00 in monies
loaned to decedent as evidenced by that certain June 21, 2011
Settlement Statement signed by Gary W. Stahl . . . which debt
was distributed to claimant pursuant to that certain Family
Settlement Agreement dated February 10, 2012 . . . .
Id. at 46.
On October 27, 2016, the trial court held a hearing on Beth
and Amy's claim against Gary's Estate. At the
hearing, Beth and Amy introduced into evidence three
promissory notes executed by Gary in favor of William's
Trust. Each promissory note includes a promise to repay the
borrowed amount plus interest at a rate of five percent per
annum to William's Trust. See Plaintiffs'
Exhibits G, O, & P. Beth and Amy also introduced a
document labeled "Notes on Gary & Connie to
Trusts" created by William detailing thirteen different
dates on which Gary received money from either William's
Trust or the trust of William's wife, Ruth. See
Plaintiffs' Exhibit Q. In addition to these documents,
Beth and Amy also submitted an Inheritance Tax Return
("Tax Return") filed by Gary and Rita as personal
representatives of William's estate. The Tax Return
lists, as an asset of William's estate, a "loan owed
to the trust at date of death from Gary Stahl Settlement
Statement" for $80, 000. Appellant's App., Vol. 2 at
159. The trial court also considered a letter written by
William to Gary in January of 2006. In the letter, William
documented the loans received by Gary. William wrote,
As you know, you and Connie executed a Promissory Note in
favor of [William's Trust] dated July 1, 1997, the Ruth
Stahl Revocable Trust dated July 1, 1997, a twenty-five
thousand dollar ($25, 000.00) Promissory Note to the Ruth
Stahl Revocable Trust dated April 6, 1996, and a twenty-five
thousand dollar ($25, 000.00) Promissory Note to
[William's Trust] dated April 6, 1996. All four of the
above Notes provided for interest at the rate of seven and
one-half percent (7.5%) per annum.
Plaintiffs' Exhibit F.
Following the hearing, the trial court adopted, verbatim,
Beth and Amy's proposed findings of fact and conclusions
thereon and entered judgment in favor of Beth and Amy in the
amount of $114, ...