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[U] In re Ahnert

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 3, 2014

IN RE: HENRY A. AHNERT, III, IRREVOCABLE LIFE INSURANCE TRUST, DATED 12/31/1995, APPEAL OF: RHETA KILLIAN, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Decree entered on March 11, 2013 in the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, Orphans' Court Division, No. 119 of 2008

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., WECHT and MUSMANNO, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

MUSMANNO, J.

Rheta Killian ("Killian") appeals from the Decree that dismissed her Exceptions and Request for Post-Trial Relief regarding an award of attorneys' fees against her.[1] Additionally, Helen Roberta Ahnert ("Trustee"), as Trustee of the Henry A. Ahnert, III, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, dated 12/31/1995 (hereinafter "the Trust"), has filed a Motion requesting that we quash and/or dismiss Killian's appeal (hereinafter "Motion to Quash"). We affirm the Decree and deny Trustee's Motion to Quash.

The Orphans' Court summarized the relevant history underlying this protracted and contentious litigation as follows:

On July 15, 2006, Henry A. Ahnert, III ["Decedent"], a resident of Vermont, died of an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
[The Trust[2] became payable to [Decedent's] children upon his death.
[Decedent] had been previously married and divorced. That union produced two children: Henry [Ahnert, ] IV[, ] and Anna Marie [Ahnert], both now adults.
[Decedent] then had a relationship with[, ] but did not marry[, ] [] Killian. That relationship produced a son, Connor [Ahnert ("Connor")], age 15.
[Decedent] later married Lisa Smith-Ahnert ["Smith-Ahnert", ] and together they had one child, Thatcher [Ahnert], age 13, and adopted Taylor [Ahnert], age 8, Bill [Ahnert], age 12, and Tete [Ahnert], age 8.
Ten days before [Decedent] died, on July 5, 2006, the Monthly and Probate Court, Montserrado County, Liberia[, ] issued a Decree of Adoption for Bill and Tete Ahnert to [Decedent] and [Decedent's] wife, [] Smith-Ahnert []. [These proceedings are collectively hereinafter referred to as "the Liberian adoptions."]
On March 18, 2008, the Hartford[, Vermont] Probate Court entered a Decree of Re-Adoption for Bill and Tete Ahnert. [Killian], Connor['s] mother, petitioned the Hartford Probate Court to reconsider its Decree of Re-Adoption, and argued that the Liberian adoptions were invalid and should be vacated. When that Court declined to overturn its Decree, Killian then filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment, to Re-open the Proceeding, and for Standing in the Windsor[, Vermont] Superior Court. Killian hoped to establish that [Decedent] died with only five children and, therefore, her son Connor was entitled to a larger share of the Trust.[FN]
[FN] Killian has also made this same challenge in Florida[, ] where [Decedent's] children are per stirpes beneficiaries of a [separate] trust created by [Decedent's] father because of [Decedent's] death.
On July 10, 2008, [Trustee] filed a First and Partial Account and a Petition for Adjudication/Statement of Proposed Distribution of the Trust in [the Monroe County, Pennsylvania Orphans' Court (hereinafter "the Orphans' Court")]. Trustee's First and Partial Account asserted that the Trust should be divided into seven equal shares, with two shares (for Bill and Tete [Ahnert]) held in escrow pending the resolution of Killian's challenge to the Liberian adoptions in the Vermont court system. Shortly thereafter, Smith[-Ahnert] filed an Objection to Trustee's Petition for Adjudication/Statement of Proposed Distribution on behalf of Thatcher, Taylor, Bill, and Tete Ahnert. ...

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