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Estate of Finstrom

Docket No. 20190360
Oral Argument: Waived

Docket Info

Title
In the Matter of the Estate of Ruth Finstrom, Deceased

Heartland Trust Company c/o Jon Benson, Personal
Representative of The Estate of Ruth Finstrom, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
Joel Finstrom and James Finstrom, Respondents and Appellants
and
Daniel Finstrom, Janice Schulz, and
Mark Finstrom Respondents and Appellees
and
Rebecca Lusk, Annette Hauser Respondents
and
Teresa Finstrom, Claimant and Appellee
Case Type
CIVIL APPEAL : PROBATE - WILLS - TRUSTS
Appeal From
Case No. 2016-PR-00039
East Central Judicial District, Traill County
Wade L. Webb

Parties' Statement of Issues

  • Appellant

    1. Whether Ruth Finstrom was unduly influenced by Daniel and Teresa Finstrom, causing her to enter into a contract for deed.
    2. Whether Daniel and Ruth Finstrom were unjustly enriched at the expense of the estate.
    3. Whether the district court erred in considering parol evidence in violation of the statute of frauds.
    4. Whether the district court had jurisdiction to deny Joel Finstrom's claim against the estate before the issue was properly joined and presented to the court.
    5. Whether Ruth Finstrom held title to a one-third interest in one quarter-section of land in trust for Joel Finstrom.
    6. Whether Joel Finstrom was entitled to a hearing where he could present evidence on his petition for allowance of claim.
    7. Whether Ruth Finstrom was legally competent when she revoked her 2011 will.
    8. Whether the district court had jurisdiction to deny formal probate of the 2011 will before petition of formal probate was served, filed, and pending before the court.

  • Appellee 1

    1. Whether this appeal should be dismissed as untimely.
    2. Whether the district court clearly erred in finding there was no confidential relationship between Daniel and Teresa Finstrom, and Ruth Finstrom, such that no presumption of undue influence applied.
    3. Whether the district court clearly erred in finding the Claimants failed to meet their burden of proving that Daniel and Teresa unduly influenced Ruth into signing the Contract for Deed.
    4. Whether the district court erred in determining that Daniel and Teresa Finstrom were not unjustly enriched at the expense of Ruth Finstrom and her estate.
    5. Whether the district court erred in admitting evidence of Daniel and Teresa’s discussions and dealings with Carl and Ruth Finstrom preceding the Contract for Deed.
    6. Whether the district court had jurisdiction to try Joel Finstrom’s trust claim and whether it afforded Joel due process.
    7. Whether the district court clearly erred in denying Joel’s trust claim.
    8. Whether the district court clearly erred in finding Ruth did not lack testamentary capacity when she executed her 2015 Will.
    9. Whether the district court erred in dismissing Annette Hauser’s Petition for Formal Probate of Ruth’s 2011 Will due to res judicata.


Summary

Joel Finstrom, James Finstrom, and Annette Hauser appeal after their claims relating to Ruth Finstrom’s estate were denied.
Ruth and Carl Finstrom executed wills in August 2011. Carl Finstrom died in November 2011. In December 2012, Ruth Finstrom executed a contract for deed conveying three quarter-sections of property to her son Daniel Finstrom and his wife Teresa Finstrom. Ruth Finstrom executed a new will in July 2015, devising the residue of her estate to her seven children in equal shares. In July 2016, Ruth Finstrom conveyed real property to her daughter Janice Schulz. Ruth Finstrom died in December 2016.
The district court admitted Ruth Finstrom’s 2015 will to informal probate and appointed James Finstrom personal representative. In March 2017, Joel Finstrom filed a claim against the estate, claiming the estate owed him for the value of an interest he owned in Ruth Finstrom’s real property and for providing her care before her death. In September 2017, James Finstrom, individually and as personal representative, sued Daniel and Teresa Finstrom and Janice Schulz seeking to void the real property conveyances Ruth Finstrom made to them. James Finstrom argued Ruth Finstrom was unduly influenced in conveying the property. Daniel and Teresa Finstrom and Janice Schulz denied the claims. James Finstrom resigned as personal representative in November 2017 and Heartland Trust Company was appointed successor personal representative. Heartland Trust Company disallowed Joel Finstrom’s claim against the estate in February 2019.
After a trial, the district court ruled Ruth Finstrom’s 2015 will was valid. The court denied Joel Finstrom’s claim that he had an interest in real property, and upheld Ruth Finstrom’s real property conveyances to Daniel and Teresa Finstrom and Janice Schulz. The court concluded Ruth Finstrom did not lack mental capacity and was not unduly influenced in making the conveyances.
After the district court’s decision, Joel Finstrom petitioned the court for an order allowing his claim against the estate. Annette Hauser also petitioned the court for formal probate of Ruth Finstrom’s 2011 will, arguing she lacked capacity to execute the 2015 will. In September 2019, the court partially granted Joel Finstrom’s claim, ruling he was entitled to $6,000 from the estate for the care he provided his mother before her death. The court denied Annette Hauser’s petition for formal probate, concluding the claims raised in the petition were decided in the court’s earlier order.
On appeal, James Finstrom argues the district court was wrong in deciding that Ruth Finstrom was not unduly influenced in conveying real property. Joel Finstrom argues the court erred in deciding he did not hold title to an interest in Ruth Finstrom’s real property. Annette Hauser claims the court erred in ruling Ruth Finstrom did not lack mental capacity to execute the 2015 will.


Briefs

Filing Date Description
03/04/2020 APPELLANT BRIEF View
04/20/2020 APPELLEE BRIEF (Teresa Finstrom, Janice Shultz and Heartland Trust Co) View
04/23/2020 APPELLEE BRIEF (Mark Finstrom) View
05/04/2020 REPLY BRIEF View

Counsel

Party Type Name
APPELLEE PRIVATE PRACTICE Samuel Gregory Larson - 06612
APPELLEE PRIVATE PRACTICE Timothy George Richard - 05454
APPELLANT PRIVATE PRACTICE Craig E Johnson - 03670
APPELLEE PRO SE Mark Finstrom

(Note: Attachments may not be available for recently filed cases and/or confidential documents.)

Seq. # Filing Date Description Attachment
1 11/18/2019 NOTICE OF APPEAL : 11/18/2019
2 11/18/2019 ORDER FOR TRANSCRIPT : 11/26/2019
3 11/20/2019 Rec'd $125.00 filing fee (receipt #27437)
4 11/19/2019 This case is consolidated w/ 20190361. Make all entries except ROA, DIS & MAN in this case.
5 11/21/2019 NOT. OF FILING NOT. OF APPEAL AND PROOF OF SERV.
6 11/21/2019 Notice Served on Craig Johnson, Timothy Richard, Mark Hellerud, Annette Hauser, Rebecca Lusk
7 11/21/2019 Janice Schulz, James Finstrom, Mark Finstrom, Teresa Finstrom
8 11/21/2019 ANNOUNCED DISQUALIFICATION : McEvers, Lisa K. Fair
9 12/17/2019 ELEC. RECORD ON APPEAL DATED DECEMBER 16, 2019 (ENTRY NOS. #1-#388)
10 01/02/2020 Stipulation for Substitution of Counsel -Samuel G. Larson replaced Mark Hellerud
11 01/03/2020 SECOND NOTICE OF APPEAL
12 01/03/2020 SECOND ORDER FOR TRANSCRIPT
13 01/08/2020 NOT. OF FILING NOT. OF APPEAL AND PROOF OF SERV.
14 01/08/2020 Notice served on Craig E. Johnson, Timothy G. Richard, Samuel G. Larson, Rebecca Lusk, (cont.)
15 01/08/2020 (cont.) Janice Schulz, and Mark Finstrom
16 01/24/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED NOVEMBER 20, 2017
17 01/24/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 22, 2019
18 01/24/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 23, 2019
19 01/24/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED AUGUST 16, 2019
20 02/05/2020 Rec'd C.O.S for Transcript
21 02/11/2020 ELEC. SUPP. RECORD ON APPEAL DATED FEBRUARY 10, 2020 (ENTRY NOS. 351-355)
22 02/21/2020 Amended Clerks Certificate of Electronic Record dated February 21, 2020 (Entry Nos. 339-350)
23 03/04/2020 APPELLANT BRIEF View
24 03/04/2020 APPELLANT APPENDIX
25 03/18/2020 Rec'd ATB and ATA non-substantive corrections
26 03/20/2020 Rec'd $11.00 for 22 pages over 100 in Appendix (receipt #27546)
27 03/23/2020 Rec'd 6 copies of ATB and ATA from Central Duplicating
28 03/26/2020 MOT. EXT/TIME APPELLEE BRIEF
29 03/26/2020 ACTION BY CLERK (all appellees) - Granted : 04/20/2020
30 04/20/2020 APPELLEE BRIEF (Teresa Finstrom, Janice Shultz and Heartland Trust Co) View
31 04/22/2020 ORAL ARGUMENT WAIVED - NO REQUESTS FOR ORAL ARGUMENT
32 04/22/2020 Rec'd 5 copies of AEB back from Central Duplicating
33 04/23/2020 SITTING WITH THE COURT : Bahr, Douglas Alan
34 04/23/2020 APPELLEE BRIEF (Mark Finstrom) View
35 05/04/2020 Rec'd C.O.S. from Mark Finstrom
36 05/04/2020 REPLY BRIEF View
37 05/05/2020 Rec'd 5 copies of RYB from CSD
38 05/06/2020 Rec'd 5 copies of AEB from CSD (Mark Finstrom)
39 05/18/2020 APPEARANCES: Wavied under N.D.R.App.P. 34(a)(1)(c)
40 05/18/2020 ARGUED: Wavied under N.D.R.App.P. 34(a)(1)(c)