Appeal from the District Court of Mountrail County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable David W. Nelson, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents
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Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
[¶1] Randall Dionne, Cynthia Larson, and James Goodness appealed from a district court judgment dismissing their petition for formal probate of Ardis Dionne's will, and denying a N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate the dismissal of James Goodness's petition to void the personal representative's deed of property to Norman Dionne in a previous action. We affirm.
[¶2] Ardis Dionne died in 1998 in Hawaii, where she resided at the time. Her six children survived her: Linda Lewis, Randall Dionne, Eileen Timmerman, Norman Dionne, Cynthia Larson, and Damian Dionne. Ardis Dionne was also survived by James Goodness, who she claimed as her husband, even though they were never legally married. At the time of her death, Ardis Dionne owned a 1/4 interest in some land in Mountrail County. Norman Dionne was appointed the personal representative of the estate, and instituted an intestate probate proceeding. A holographic will signed by Ardis Dionne was found in 2001. The will left all of Ardis Dionne's property, including the real estate, to James Goodness.
[¶3] Goodness continued to live in Hawaii after Ardis Dionne's death. Because Ardis Dionne's children wanted to ensure the real estate stayed in the family, Norman Dionne and Cynthia Larson traveled to Hawaii in April of 2002 to meet with Goodness and attempt to persuade him to transfer or sell the real estate to them. While meeting with Norman Dionne and Cynthia Larson in Hawaii, Goodness told them he did not want the real estate. Goodness signed a deed that provided:
That the personal representative shall deal with the assets of the estate and distribute the estate in the following manner: a. The estate's interest in all of the above described real estate shall be conveyed to Norman Dionne for $______________. b. After paying administration expenses and creditor's claims, if any, all of the remaining assets of the estate (including the proceeds from the sale of the land) shall be distributed to James Goodness. Handwritten in the blank space in paragraph a was "1.00," and in paragraph b, "James Goodness" was crossed out and "Norman for maintenance, 4/25/02" was handwritten in. Goodness and all of Ardis Dionne's children signed the deed. Subsequently, Norman Dionne, as personal representative of the estate, issued a deed to himself in his individual capacity.
[¶4] In 2008, Randall Dionne and Cynthia Larson filed a petition to void the personal representative's deed Norman Dionne had issued to himself and to transfer the land back into the estate for distribution. Randall Dionne and Cynthia Larson claimed the parties did not intend all of the land to go to Norman Dionne when James Goodness signed the deed giving up his interest in the land. They claimed the land was supposed to be kept by the estate until Ardis Dionne's mother died, and then be distributed to all six children equally. The district court dismissed the petition on summary judgment, ruling the deed unambiguously transferred the property to Norman Dionne. Randall Dionne and Cynthia Larson ...