IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT S. MEEKER, Deceased.
CAROLE L. WAGNER, Appellee (Respondent). ROBIN MEEKER GASTON, MISTY S. OXBORROW, and DUSTIN D. MEEKER, Appellants (Petitioners),
from the District Court of Sheridan County The Honorable
William J. Edelman, Judge
Representing Appellants: Letitia Carole Abromats of Letitia
C. Abromats, P.C., Greybull, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Benjamin Scott Kirven of Kirven and
Kirven, P.C., Buffalo, Wyoming.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Appellants Robin Meeker Gaston, Misty S. Oxborrow and Dustin
D. Meeker (the Meeker children) are the surviving children of
the decedent, Robert S. Meeker. They contested Mr.
Meeker's will, which left the bulk of his estate to
Appellee Carole L. Wagner. When the Meeker children filed
their petition to set aside the probate of the will, they
also filed a motion for change of judge under the peremptory
disqualification provision in W.R.C.P. 40.1. The district
court denied the motion for peremptory disqualification as
untimely and granted summary judgment to Ms. Wagner on the
merits. On appeal, the Meeker children challenge the district
court's order denying their request for peremptory
disqualification of the district judge and its order granting
summary judgment in favor of Ms. Wagner.
We conclude that the district court erred by denying the
Meeker children's request for a change of judge.
Consequently, we reverse and remand.
The dispositive issue in this case is: Whether the district
court erred by refusing to grant the Meeker children's
Rule 40.1(b)(1) motion for peremptory disqualification of the
In 2010 and 2011, Mr. Meeker executed a number of estate
planning documents, including a durable power of attorney,
advance health care directive, and will. He appointed Ms.
Wagner, his long time companion, as his agent in the durable
power of attorney and advance health care directive. He also
named her as personal representative of his estate and
devised the bulk of his estate to her.
In late 2014, Mr. Meeker moved into a long-term care center
in Sheridan, Wyoming. The Meeker children were unhappy with
the facility and did not believe that Ms. Wagner was acting
in Mr. Meeker's best interests, so they filed an action
for guardianship and conservatorship. The district court
denied the Meeker children's requests.
Mr. Meeker died on September 6, 2015, and on October 27,
2015, Ms. Wagner petitioned for probate of his will and to be
appointed personal representative of his estate. The clerk of
court issued a notice assigning one of the two judges in the
Fourth Judicial District to the probate. The judge assigned
to the probate had presided over the earlier
guardianship/conservatorship action. Ms. Wagner published
notice of the probate and also sent notice to the Meeker
children by certified mail. The notice stated that an action
to set aside the will must be filed within three months of
the date of the first publication of the notice, which was
November 6, 2015. On January 29, 2016, the Meeker children
filed a petition to deny admission of the will to probate,
claiming Ms. Wagner exerted undue influence over their father
and he lacked testamentary capacity to execute the will. On
that same date, they also filed a motion for peremptory
disqualification of the assigned judge.
Ms. Wagner filed a motion for summary judgment on the Meeker
children's will contest. The district court denied the
Meeker children's request for change of judge, concluding
that it was not timely under Rule 40.1(b)(1), and granted Ms.