SUCCESSION OF RAY E. ROMERO
FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF IBERIA,
NO. 22906 HONORABLE LEWIS H. PITMAN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE
Macdonald Jones Walker LLP COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT:
Douglas E. Waters
J. Rench Jones Walker LLP COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT:
Douglas E. Waters
Raymond A. Beyt Aaron D. Beyt COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES Clifford Gerard Ellender, et. al.
Clifford Gerard Ellender, et al. c/o Larry Lovas PRO SE
PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES Clifford Gerard Ellender, et al.
Porteus R. Burke Burke & Cestia COUNSEL FOR OTHER
APPELLEE: Carolyn Romero Rink
composed of D. Kent Savoie, Candyce G. Perret, and Jonathan
W. Perry, Judges.
KENT SAVOIE JUDGE.
connection with this court's docket number 18-923, the
Defendant-Appellant Douglas Waters ("Mr. Waters"),
who is the Executor of the Succession of Ray Romero, appeals
the trial court's judgment dismissing Plaintiffs'
Petition for declaratory relief without prejudice, arguing
that the Petition should have been dismissed with prejudice.
For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
decedent, Ray Romero passed away on November 13, 2016. On
October 20, 2017, a group of eighteen of Mr. Romero's
purported nieces and nephews ("Plaintiffs") filed a
Petition for Declaratory Judgment concerning their
inheritance rights with respect to Mr. Romero's estate.
They named as Defendants, Mr. Waters, individually and as
Executor of Mr. Romero's succession, and Carolyn Rink,
who was Mr. Romero's only biological child and born of
Mr. Romero's first marriage. Plaintiffs further alleged
that after Mr. Romero's first marriage ended, Mr. Romero
married Martha Waters Romero. Mr. Romero and Martha did not
have any biological children together, however, Martha had
two children from prior relationships: Mr. Waters, who is the
Executor herein, and Virginia Waters Johnson.
their Petition, Plaintiffs further alleged that Mr. Romero
died testate, noting a Will dated October 14, 1993 ("the
Will"), which left Mr. Romero's assets to the
Trustees of the Romero Living Trust of 1991 ("the 1991
Trust"). However, according to Plaintiffs, the 1991
Trust terminated pursuant to a document dated September 17,
2007. They also alleged that Martha had predeceased Mr.
Romero and the Will disinherited Ms. Rink. Therefore,
according to Plaintiffs, Mr. Romero's estate should be
divided among them as the surviving children of Mr.
Romero's four deceased siblings pursuant to the rules of
intestacy. According to Plaintiffs, the only estate asset is
a Merrill Lynch account, which was formerly held in the 1991
Trust, but had been returned to Mr. Romero by virtue of the
termination and distribution of the 1991 Trust property on
September 1, 2007. Both Mr. Waters and Ms. Rink filed
separate Answers to Plaintiffs' Petition.
March 16, 2018, Mr. Waters filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment seeking dismissal of Plaintiffs' Petition with
prejudice insofar as it sought a determination that the
Merrill Lynch account was part of Mr. Waters' estate. He
argued that the account and its proceeds were property of The
Romero Living Trust of 2007 ("the 2007 Trust"),
which replaced the 1991 trust. Mr. Waters further described
the various transactions that replaced the 1991 Trust with
the 2007 Trust and transferred the Merrill Lynch Account to
the 2007 Trust. He also noted that after Mr. Romero passed
away on November 13, 2016, he was named Executor at the time
of probate in March 2017 in accordance with the Will, and
under the terms of the 2007 Trust, he also became the
successor trustee and liquidated the Merrill Lynch account.
Mr. Waters' Motion for Summary Judgment also sought
dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims arguing that "the
small amount of property owned by the estate" could not
be distributed to Plaintiffs because "they have not
sufficiently proven their relatedness to the
decedent[.]" Mr. Waters did not seek a hearing date with
respect to his Motion for Summary Judgment, no hearing date
was set, and Plaintiffs did not file any opposition thereto.
8, 2018, Plaintiffs submitted a Motion and Order to Dismiss,
seeking the voluntary dismissal of their action without
prejudice. Mr. Waters filed an opposition on May 9, 2018,
arguing that Plaintiffs' Petition should be dismissed
with prejudice, rather than without prejudice. The trial
court signed an order on May ...