In the Matter of the Estate of Jeanne H. Johnson, Deceased
Scott Johnson and Steven D. Johnson, Respondents and Appellants and Stuart Johnson, Respondent and Appellee Sandra Mark, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Jeanne H. Johnson, Petitioner and Appellee
from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial
District, the Honorable Steven L. Marquart, Judge.
Stephen R Hanson II (argued) and Christopher M. McShane
(appeared), West Fargo, N.D., for petitioner and appellee.
A. Garaas, Fargo, N.D., for respondents and appellants.
Michael L. Gust, Fargo, N.D., for respondent and appellee.
1] Scott and Steven Johnson appeal from a district court
judgment denying their application to restrain Sandra Mark,
personal representative of Jeanne Johnson's estate, from
selling farmland. They also appeal from an order approving
the estate's final report and account and payment of
personal representative fees and attorney's fees from the
estate. We affirm.
2] Jeanne Johnson died in June 2010. She was survived by her
children, Sandra Mark, Stuart Johnson, and Steven Johnson,
and her grandson, Scott Johnson. Mark was appointed personal
representative of the estate. Under Jeanne Johnson's
will, her residuary estate was devised to Mark, Stuart
Johnson, and Scott Johnson.
3] Jeanne Johnson's residuary estate included farmland in
Cass County. Stuart Johnson leased and farmed the land under
a one-year agreement executed in April 2010. The lease
agreement included an option to purchase the farmland if
Jeanne Johnson died on or before December 31, 2010. The
option had to be exercised within three months after Jeanne
Johnson's death, or sixty days after the appointment of a
personal representative to Johnson's estate, whichever
occurred later. Stuart Johnson timely exercised his option to
purchase the farmland after Mark was appointed personal
representative of Jeanne Johnson's estate.
4] In October 2010, Stuart Johnson and Mark, as personal
representative of the estate, entered into a
"Self-Renewing Farm Cash Rent Contract with Unbreakable
Option to Purchase" for the farmland. The agreement
required Stuart Johnson to pay yearly cash rent of $9, 350
and provided Stuart a non-expiring option to purchase the
farmland for the appraised price of $248, 200.
5] In November 2010, Steven Johnson filed a claim against the
estate asserting he owned the farmland under a contract for
deed with Jeanne Johnson. Mark denied the claim, and Steven
Johnson sued for specific performance of the contract for
deed. The district court dismissed Steven Johnson's
action for specific performance, and this Court affirmed in
Johnson v. Mark, 2013 ND 128, 834 N.W.2d 291.
6] In August 2013, Steven and Scott Johnson applied to the
district court for an order restraining Mark from selling the
land to Stuart Johnson. The court denied their application,
concluding state law authorized Mark to sell the farmland if
acting reasonably for the benefit of the interested persons.
The court found that in entering the October 2010 lease
agreement with Stuart Johnson, Mark acted reasonably for the
benefit of all interested persons, the residuary devisees
under Jeanne Johnson's will. After the court denied
Steven and Scott Johnson's application, Mark conveyed the
farmland to Stuart Johnson by a personal representative's
deed in May 2014. Scott and Steven Johnson appealed, and this
Court reversed for further proceedings on whether Mark acted
reasonably for the benefit of the interested persons when she
entered into the agreement with Stuart Johnson. Estate of
Johnson, 2015 ND 110, 863 N.W.2d 215.
7] On remand, the district court heard additional testimony
from Sandra Mark and Stuart Johnson and found Mark acted
reasonably for the benefit of all interested persons when she
entered into the October 2010 agreement to lease and sell the
farmland to Stuart Johnson. Mark petitioned for approval of
the estate's final report and account and for approval of
$28, 163.72 in personal representative fees and $119, 324.97
in attorney's fees to be paid out of the estate. Scott
and Steven Johnson objected to the final report and account
and to the amount of fees. ...