John Beckstrand (deceased) by and through his Personal Representative, Julie Beckstrand, Plaintiff and Appellee
Justin Beckstrand, James Beckstrand (deceased) by and through his surviving spouse, Cynthia Beckstrand, Defendants and Appellants
from the District Court of Benson County, Northeast Judicial
District, the Honorable Lee A. Christofferson, Judge.
P. Wang, for plaintiff and appellee.
Theodore T. Sandberg, for defendants and appellants.
SANDSTROM, SURROGATE JUDGE.
1] Justin Beckstrand and James Beckstrand, through his
surviving spouse, Cynthia Beckstrand, appeal from a judgment
awarding $164, 202.40 in 2015 farm rental payments to Julie
Beckstrand, the personal representative of John
Beckstrand's estate. Because the district court's
findings are inadequate to explain the basis for its
equitable decision to award the farm rental payments to Julie
Beckstrand, we reverse and remand for the court to explain
the rationale for its decision.
2] This case involves a family dispute over property located
in Benson County. John and Inez Beckstrand were the parents
of Julie, James, and William Beckstrand. Justin Beckstrand is
James Beckstrand's son and John Beckstrand's
3] In 2001, John and Inez Beckstrand entered into a contract
for deed to sell property to Justin and James Beckstrand. In
2007, John and Inez Beckstrand entered into a contract for
deed to sell additional property to Justin and James
Beckstrand. Annual payments were to be made on November 1 of
each year under both contracts for deed. The last payment on
the 2001 contract was due November 1, 2015. The last payment
on the 2007 contract was due November 1, 2026. Inez
Beckstrand died in 2010.
4] Justin and James Beckstrand made no annual payments during
2013 and 2014 for either contract for deed. James Beckstrand
died in 2013 before John Beckstrand executed a will and died
in 2014. John Beckstrand's will provided in relevant
SPECIFIC BEQUEST. At the time of my death, any amount owing
on a Contracts or Contract for Deeds which I may have entered
into with James Beckstrand and/or Justin Beckstrand, I direct
must be paid and divided as follows:
1. Unpaid payments from James Beckstrand shall be paid to
2. Unpaid Payments from Justin Beckstrand shall be divided,
One half (1/2) to be paid to my daughter Julie Beckstrand;
and one half (1/2) to be shared equally between my
grandchildren, John Beckstrand, Sandra Beckstrand, Joanna
Beckstrand, Justin Beckstrand, Jeremiah White, and Elisha
of the essence in these payments being made. I further direct
my personal representative to enforce time is of the essence
standards in these payments being made.
5] In late 2014, Julie Beckstrand, as personal representative
of John Beckstrand's estate, sued Justin Beckstrand and
James Beckstrand's surviving spouse, Cynthia Beckstrand,
to cancel by action the two contracts for deed. Because the
bench trial was scheduled for May 21, 2015, after the spring
planting season, the district court allowed Julie Beckstrand
to rent the property to the highest bidder, giving Justin and
Cynthia Beckstrand the right of first refusal if they met the
highest bid. They did so and the district court allowed
Justin and Cynthia Beckstrand to rent the property during
2015 for $164, 202.40, with the rental payment deposited in
Julie Beckstrand's attorney's account pending trial
on the cancellation actions.
6] The cases were tried together. The district court ruled
Justin and Cynthia Beckstrand had defaulted on the contracts
for deed. On the basis of John Beckstrand's will, the
court found "John set forth a distribution (forgiveness)
plan for any amount owed on the two Contracts for Deed. His
intent to forgive the debt was clear in the will." The
court found "a reasonable redemption period is equitable
for the defendants." The court ordered:
1. Defendants shall pay the personal representative for the
2013 payments on each Contract for Deed plus noted interest
from November 1, 2013, to present, all within 90 days of
judgment being entered.
2. Upon timely payment of the amounts due in paragraph #1,
the remaining debt amounts of the 2001 Contract for Deed are
forgiven for both Defendants, under the language found on
page 3 of the contract.
3. Upon timely payment of the amounts due in paragraph #1,
the remaining amount of the 2007 Contract for Deed owed by
the James Beckstrand estate shall be forgiven under the
special bequest language of the will. Cynthia Beckstrand
shall receive her share of the property described in the 2007
Contract for Deed, and shall owe no further payments.
4. Upon timely payment of the amounts due in paragraph #1,
the special bequest language of the will controls as to
Justin Beckstrand's 2007 Contract for Deed debt. He shall
pay his remaining 1/2 share of the 2007 Contract for Deed
debt (principal plus all interest) to the estate of John
Beckstrand for division as follows:Unpaid payments from
Justin Beckstrand shall be divided one half (1/2) to be paid
to Julie Beckstrand and one half (1/2) to be shared equally
between Sandra Beckstrand, Joanna Beckstrand, Justin
Beckstrand, Jeremiah White, and Elisha White Miller.This
payment to be made within 120 days of entry of judgment.
Since Justin is entitled to 1/6th of the unpaid payments, he
may reduce his total payment by his 1/6th share. As for any
remaining payments owed by the Estate of James Beckstrand or
Cynthia Beckstrand for their 1/2 share on the 2007 Contract
for Deed, are deemed forgiven and waived upon payment under
the terms and conditions of Paragraph #1 of these Findings.
5. Any issues relating to the payment of any real estate tax
payments for 2013 and 2014 have been resolved.
6. Upon timely payment of all debts, warranty deeds shall be
issued by the personal representative of the estate, at ...