IN THE MATTER OF THE SUCCESSION OF MARK HOWARD BUHLER
Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for
the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana No. P100003
Honorable R. Michael Caldwell, Judge Presiding
E. Roper Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for
Plaintiff/Appellant Betty Miller Buhler
Siobhan S. Leger Trenton A. Grand Denise N. Akers Baton
Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee Nickie
BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THERIOT, JJ.
seeks review of a judgment granting appellee's motion
revoking appellant's appointment as executrix in a
succession. For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Miller Buhler married Mark Howard Buhler in 1988. They
subsequently divorced in 1994. In 2000, they remarried.
During their second marriage, Mr. Buhler, on May 18, 2013,
executed his "Last Will and Testament" bequeathing
all of his property "to my wife, Betty Miller
Buhler" and naming Ms. Buhler executrix.
2014, Ms. Buhler filed a Petition for Divorce in the same
suit record as the 1994 divorce (Docket No. 103, 346,
Division B, The Family Court in and for the Parish of East
Baton Rouge). More than six months after Ms. Buhler filed her
petition for divorce, Mr. Buhler filed a "Rule to Show
Cause Why a Judgment of Divorce Should Not Be Granted."
Mr. Buhler died on August 4, 2015, after a judgment of
divorce had been rendered and signed in the 2014 family court
proceeding, but before the delay for taking an appeal had
August 12, 2015, Ms. Buhler filed a "Petition for
Probate of Statutory Testament" in district court,
alleging decedent was her husband at the time of his death.
She attached decedent's testament to the petition, noting
that it designated her to serve as executrix. The district
court signed orders probating the testament and confirming
Ms. Buhler as testamentary executrix.
February 2016, Nickie Buhler Paul, the daughter of decedent,
filed a "Motion for Revocation of Appointment of
Executrix, " alleging that Ms. Buhler and decedent were
divorced at the time of decedent's death, and Ms. Buhler
misrepresented her status to the court. Ms. Paul sought to
revoke Ms. Buhler's appointment as executrix and
requested that she be appointed as executrix. Ms. Buhler
opposed the motion, arguing that the divorce action abated on
Mr. Buhler's death because the judgment of divorce was
not final given that the appeal delays had not expired.
Alternatively, she argued that the judgment of divorce was
invalid or null.
matter was heard by the district court on September 26, 2016.
Prior to the hearing on this motion, the parties signed a
stipulation in which they agreed to the authenticity and
admissibility of certain exhibits, including "[t]he
entire suit record for Buhler v. Buhler, Docket No.
103, 346, Division B, The Family Court in and for the Parish
of East Baton Rouge."
the hearing, the district court determined that the family
court had rendered a judgment of divorce prior to Mr.
Buhler's death and found that any challenge to the
validity of that judgment should be made in the court where
the judgment had been rendered, which was the Family Court of
East Baton Rouge Parish. Additionally, the district court
held that under LSA-C.C. art. 1608,  the judgment of divorce
negated any testamentary provisions in favor of Ms. Buhler.
Accordingly, Ms. Buhler's appointment as executrix was
revoked, and Ms. Paul was appointed executrix. Ms. Paul's
counsel was instructed to prepare a judgment.
on October 7, 2016, Ms. Buhler's counsel filed a proposed
judgment, which indicated that an opposition to the proposed
judgment had been received from Ms. Paul on the basis that it
did not accurately reflect the detailed oral ruling rendered
by the district court and that Ms. Paul's counsel, not
Ms. Buhler's counsel, had been directed to draft the
judgment. Nevertheless, on October 13, 2016 the district
court signed the judgment submitted on behalf of Ms. Buhler.
That judgment provided:
IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Motion for
Revocation of Appointment of Executrix is granted and
that the appointment of Betty Buhler as Executrix of the
estate of Mark Howard Buhler is revoked.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that Nickie
Buhler Paul is hereby appointed as Dative Testamentary
Executrix of the Succession and it is further ordered that
Letters of Administration be issued to her upon her
compliance with the requirements of law.
before the filing of a judgment on behalf of Ms. Buhler, Ms.
Paul's counsel had also filed a proposed judgment. In
that proposed judgment, Ms. Paul stated that an opposition
was received from Ms. Buhler's counsel to the inclusion
of paragraphs 3, 4, and 5 of the judgment as well as to an
additional provision that was redacted. However, the district
court signed Ms. Paul's proposed judgment on October 14,
2016, the day after it signed Ms. Buhler's proposed
October 26, 2016, Ms. Buhler's counsel filed a motion for
new trial from the October 13, 2016 judgment, which was
denied by the district court. Thereafter, Ms. Buhler's
counsel filed a Motion for Devolutive Appeal from the
judgment signed on October 13, 2016. The district court
signed an order granting the appeal of that
appeal, Ms. Buhler assigns the following as error:
1. The trial court abused its discretion by removing
Appellant, Betty Miller Buhler, as Executrix.
2. The trial court committed legal and reversible error by
removing Appellant as Executrix without first conducting a
3. The trial court abused its discretion in denying
Appellant's motion for new trial.
TO SHOW CAUSE
court, ex proprio motu, issued a rule to show cause
ordering that the parties show cause by briefs which judgment
was the proper judgment before the court. The rule to show
cause was referred to this panel to be decided in connection
with this appeal.
stated above, the district court signed the judgment
submitted on behalf of Ms. Buhler on October 13, 2016. On the
following day, October 14, 2016, the district court signed
the competing judgment addressing the same motion, which was
submitted on behalf of Ms. Paul. While the first and fifth
paragraphs of the second judgment were substantively the same
as the first judgment, paragraphs two through four of the
second judgment added substantive rulings, including
recognition and validation of the ...