Ann Fahey a/k/a Anne Fife, Timothy Fife, and Richard Dennis Fife, Plaintiffs and Appellants
Joanne Fife a/k/a Joanne Beatty as Personal Representative of the Estate of Richard A. Fife, Joanne Fife a/k/a Joanne Beatty, Marianne Fife, and all other persons unknown claiming any estate interest or lien or encumbrance upon, the real property described in the Complaint, whether as heirs, legatees, personal representatives, devisees, creditors or otherwise, Defendants and Joanne Fife a/k/a Joanne Beatty as Personal Representative of the Estate of Richard A. Fife, Joanne Fife a/k/a Joanne Beatty, Appellee
from the District Court of McKenzie County, Northwest
Judicial District, the Honorable Robin A. Schmidt, Judge.
L. Rogneby (argued) and Briana L. Hildebrand (appeared),
Bismarck, N.D., for plaintiffs and appellants.
Michelle Gibbens (argued) and J. Bruce Gibbens (on brief),
Cando, N.D., for appellee.
1] Anne Fahey, Timothy Fife and Richard D. Fife (Plaintiffs)
appeal from a district court judgment in their action seeking
cancellation of a quit claim deed from their deceased mother
Marianne Fife to their deceased father Richard A. Fife
relating to North Dakota minerals. The court rescinded the
deed but concluded that under North Dakota's intestacy
laws in effect at Marianne Fife's death, the minerals
passed to Richard A. Fife. The court concluded Richard A.
Fife's surviving spouse Joanne Fife owns the minerals. We
2] Marianne Fife owned a mineral interest in McKenzie County.
She died without a will on December 16, 1989. Upon her death,
Marianne Fife was an Idaho resident and was survived by her
spouse, Richard A. Fife, and her three children, Anne Fahey,
Timothy Fife, and Richard D. Fife. Richard A. Fife died in
1997, and was survived by his wife Joanne Fife.
3] On December 4, 1989, while on home care services, Marianne
Fife conveyed her mineral interest to her husband Richard
Fife. She also conveyed her interest in the parties'
Idaho home to Richard Fife on December 1, 1989.
4] In 2011, Anne Fahey's aunt Carole Hill informed her
about the circumstances surrounding Marianne Fife's
December 4, 1989, conveyance of her mineral interest. Hill
witnessed Richard Fife present a quit claim deed for Marianne
Fife to sign, and Richard held Marianne's hand to help
her sign her name on the deed. Hill believed Marianne Fife
was not competent at the time to sign the deed, and was not
informed as to what she was signing. Plaintiffs sued Joanne
Fife, individually and as personal representative of Richard
Fife's estate, claiming their mother lacked capacity to
execute the deed because she was under medication to treat
her pain. Plaintiffs also claimed their father exercised
undue influence over their mother when she signed the deed.
Plaintiffs requested the cancellation of the deed and sought
an interest in the minerals.
5] After a bench trial the district court concluded Marianne
Fife lacked capacity to sign the deed for the minerals. The
court also concluded she signed the deed as a result of
Richard Fife's undue influence. The court rescinded the
deed and returned the mineral interest to Marianne Fife's
estate; however, the court concluded that under North
Dakota's intestate succession laws in effect when
Marianne Fife died, her mineral interest passed to Richard
Fife. The court quieted title to the mineral interest in
6] Plaintiffs argue the district court erred by failing to
properly value their mother's estate. They argue the
court should have valued all of her property wherever
located, including the marital home and personal property in
Idaho. They argue the value of their mother's intestate
estate exceeded $50, 000.
7] When Marianne Fife died in 1989, North Dakota and Idaho
intestacy laws provided the surviving spouse's intestate
share of the decedent's estate was the first $50, 000,
plus one-half of the balance of the intestate estate if there
are surviving children who are also children of the surviving
spouse. N.D.C.C. § 30.1-04-02; I.C. § 15-2-102(a)
(as to the decedent's separate property). Plaintiffs
argue the value of all of Marianne Fife's North Dakota
and Idaho property exceeded $50, 000; therefore, they are
entitled to one-half of the balance of her estate.
8] Valuation of an estate's property is a finding of fact
subject to the clearly erroneous standard of review.
Estate of Luken, 551 N.W.2d 794, 798 (N.D. 1996).
"A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if no evidence
supports it, it is induced by an erroneous view of the law or
after reviewing all the evidence we are left with a definite
and firm conviction a mistake has been made." Adams
v. Adams, 2016 ND 169, ¶ 6, 883 N.W.2d 864. We