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In re Estate of Ketterling

Supreme Court of North Dakota

September 26, 2016

In the Matter of the Estate of Larry Ketterling, Deceased
v.
Linda Ketterling, Respondent and Appellant and Lodeva Ketterling, Respondent Richard Erbele, Personal Representative, Petitioner and Appellee and Kristine Rauh, Travis Ketterling and Evan Ketterling, Respondents and Appellees

         Appeal from the District Court of Ransom County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable Jerod E. Tufte, Judge.

          Fallon M. Kelly, for petitioner and appellee.

          Sara K. Sorenson, for respondent and appellant.

          Jordan B. Weir (argued), Valeska A. Hermanson (appeared) and Robert G. Manly (on brief), for respondents and appellees.

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Linda Ketterling appealed from a district court order interpreting Larry Ketterling's will and the L & L Rentals, LLC operating agreement to determine whether the transfer of Larry Ketterling's ownership interest in the company is restricted. We dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

         I

         [¶ 2] Linda Ketterling was married to Larry Ketterling. They were the co-owners of L & L Rentals, and each owned a fifty percent membership interest in the company. Larry Ketterling died on July 31, 2014. An application for the informal probate of Larry Ketterling's will was filed and a personal representative was appointed.

         [¶ 3] In November 2015, the personal representative petitioned for approval of the final accounting, settlement, and distribution of the estate, including distribution of Larry Ketterling's interest in L & L Rentals to his children. Linda Ketterling objected to the petition, arguing Larry Ketterling's interest in the company was not available for distribution because she intended to purchase the interest under the terms of the L & L Rentals operating agreement.

         [¶ 4] A hearing was held, and the district court entered an order on February 17, 2016. The district court interpreted the will and the L & L Rentals operating agreement and concluded the personal representative would not violate the operating agreement by distributing Larry Ketterling's interest in the company to his children. The court ordered the personal representative was not required to transfer the interest to Linda Ketterling under either the terms of the will or the terms of the operating agreement.

         [¶ 5] On February 17, 2016, a bank petitioned for allowance of its claim against the estate for payment of debts, including a loan to L & L Rentals. On February 22, 2016, the personal representative petitioned for approval of an amended final accounting and distribution of the estate. On February 26, 2016, Linda Ketterling filed a claim against the estate for amounts she may be required to pay creditors on loans to Larry Ketterling. On April 7, 2016, Linda Ketterling objected to the petition for approval of an amended final accounting and distribution, arguing L & L Rentals is not an estate asset. On April 8, 2016, Linda Ketterling filed a notice of appeal, stating she was appealing the February 17, 2016, order.

         II

         [¶ 6] Before this Court can consider the merits of an appeal, we must determine whether we have jurisdiction. In re Estate of Hollingsworth, 2012 ND 16, ¶ 7, 809 N.W.2d 328.

         [¶ 7] This is an informal, unsupervised probate case. In an unsupervised probate, each proceeding before the court is independent of any other proceeding involving the same estate. N.D.C.C. § 30.1-12-07. Because each proceeding is independent, there needs to be finality, for purposes of appealability, only for the proceeding being appealed. In re Estate of Grengs, 2015 ND 152, ΒΆ 18, 864 N.W.2d 424. This Court has explained, "When interrelated claims have not all been resolved, the order or judgment is not final for review. 'Thus, in an unsupervised probate, an order settling all claims of one claimant is ...


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