MILLER, P. J., RICKMAN and REESE, JJ.
Dodd filed a complaint against Gary U. Dodd ("the
administrator"), as administrator of the estate of Titus
Dodd, in the Superior Court of DeKalb County seeking payment
of funeral expenses from the estate. The superior court
dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
On appeal, Dodd contends that the superior court erred by
dismissing his case. For the following reasons, we vacate the
judgment and remand the case to the superior court for
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
review of the dismissal of a case is de novo. See
Benefield v. Martin, 276 Ga.App. 130 (622 S.E.2d
469) (2005). The record shows that following the death of his
brother ("the decedent"), Dodd paid $7, 335.00 in
funeral expenses. Approximately three years after the
decedent's death, Dodd filed a complaint in superior
court against the administrator of the estate claiming that
the estate was liable for the payment of the funeral expenses
pursuant to OCGA § 53-7-40.
nine years after the complaint was filed, a jury trial was
held. During the trial, the administrator testified that the
estate case was still pending in Cobb County. After the close
of the evidence, the superior court questioned whether it had
jurisdiction because the case involved a claim against the
estate. Following arguments from both parties, the superior
court held that it did not have jurisdiction of this case,
that it should have been filed in Cobb County and litigated
before the probate court judge; the court therefore dismissed
contends that the superior court erred by dismissing the case
for lack of jurisdiction. Alternatively, Dodd argues that if
jurisdiction properly lies with the probate court, the case
should not have been dismissed, it should have been
transferred to the probate court.
probate courts have "original, exclusive, and general
jurisdiction of . . . [a]ll other matters and things as
appertain or relate to estates of deceased persons."
OCGA § 15-9-30 (a) (11). "With respect to areas in
which the probate court has been given exclusive, original
subject matter jurisdiction, its authority is broad."
(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Benefield, 276
Ga.App. at 130-131. OCGA § 53-7-40 governs the priority
of the claims against an estate:
Unless otherwise provided by law, all property of the estate,
both real and personal, shall be liable for the payment of
claims against the estate in the following order: (1)
Year's support for the family; (2) Funeral expenses,
whether or not the decedent leaves a surviving spouse, in an
amount which corresponds with the circumstances of the
decedent in life. If the estate is solvent, the personal
representative is authorized to provide a suitable protection
for the grave; (3) Other necessary expenses of
administration; (4) Reasonable expenses of the decedent's
last illness; (5) Unpaid taxes or other debts due the state
or the United States; (6) Judgments, secured interests, and
other liens created during the lifetime of the decedent, to
be paid according to their priority of lien. Secured
interests and other liens on specific property shall be
preferred only to the extent of such property; and (7) All
this claim against the estate concerned the payment of
funeral expenses, it fell within the subject matter
jurisdiction of the probate court. See Cunningham v.
Estate of Cunningham, 304 Ga.App. 608, 611-612 (2) (697
S.E.2d 280) (2010) (holding that the probate court had
jurisdiction pursuant to OCGA § 53-7-40 for reasonable
expenses of the decedent's last illness). "[A]
superior court, as a court of equity, can only exercise its
concurrent jurisdiction over the administration of estates
when complete and adequate remedies at law are
unavailable." (Citation and punctuation omitted.)
Benfield, 276 Ga.App. at 131. Here, Dodd does not
show how his remedies at law are unavailable. Dodd claims
that starting the case over in the probate court would damage
his interest, but he does not show why litigating the case in
probate court would not provide a complete and adequate
remedy. See Id.
the superior court correctly determined that it lacked
jurisdiction to hear this case. See Cunningham, 304
Ga.App. at 612 (2). However, "[a]ny court shall transfer
to the appropriate court in the state any civil case in which
it determines that jurisdiction or venue lies
elsewhere." (Citation omitted.) Id. The
superior court erred by dismissing the case instead of
transferring it to the probate court of Cobb County. We
vacate the superior court's order and remand the case to
the superior court with the direction that the superior court
transfer the case to the probate court of Cobb County. See
vacated; case remanded.
Miller, P J, and ...