Rodney G. Riskey, individually and as Co-trustee of the Annette Riskey Family Irrevocable Trust dated April 12, 2004, Plaintiff and Appellee
Jeffrey T. Riskey, in his capacity as Co-trustee of the Annette Riskey Family Irrevocable Trust dated April 12, 2004, Defendant and Appellant Joseph Riskey, Robert E. Riskey, Randy G. Riskey, John G. Riskey, and Jeff T. Riskey, individually and as Co-trustee of the Annette Riskey Family Irrevocable Trust dated April 12, 2004, Plaintiffs and Appellants
Rodney G. Riskey, individually and as Co-trustee of the Annette Riskey Family Irrevocable Trust dated April 12, 2004, Defendant and Appellee
from the District Court of Walsh County, Northeast Judicial
District, the Honorable Lonnie Olson, Judge.
Lawrence D. DuBois, Cavalier, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.
Theodore T. Sandberg (argued) and Laura D. Cobb (on brief),
Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant.
VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
1] Jeffrey Riskey, individually and as co-trustee of the
Annette Riskey Family Irrevocable Trust dated April 12, 2004
("Trust"), and other Riskey family members
(collectively, "the Riskeys") appealed from
judgments entered after the district court granted his
brother and co-trustee Rodney Riskey's summary judgment
motion. We conclude that the facts, when viewed in a light
most favorable to the Riskeys, do not support a conclusion
that the Trust's purchase option provision was the effect
of Rodney Riskey's undue influence on their mother,
Annette Riskey. We affirm.
2] In granting Rodney Riskey's summary judgment motion,
the district court provided the following undisputed facts:
Annette Riskey's husband, Gilbert Riskey, died in
December 2003. Within months of the death, Rodney Riskey
brought Annette Riskey to attorney David Peterson. A new
trust was drafted which allowed Rodney Riskey to purchase
land, bins and a house owned by Annette Riskey [after her
death] for the sum of $65, 000. The trust was signed by
Annette Riskey [as settlor] and Rodney Riskey [as co-trustee]
on April 12th, 2004. Jeffrey Riskey was appointed
[c]o-trustee but was only sent a signature page, which he
signed shortly thereafter. Jeffrey Riskey did not know of the
purchase option until 2015. All parties agree the land, bins
and house are worth more than $65, 000, though no appraisal
has been admitted into the record. Annette Riskey died in
November 2015. Rodney Riskey executed a purchase agreement,
which Jeffrey Riskey, [c]o-trustee, would not sign.
In 2004 Annette Riskey had also executed a warranty deed
transferring the property to the co-trustees, Rodney Riskey
and Jeffrey Riskey, and reserving a life estate.
3] In February 2016, Rodney Riskey filed this action seeking
an order to compel Jeffrey Riskey, as co-trustee, to execute
the purchase option required under the 2004 Trust's
provision allowing Rodney Riskey to purchase farmland and
homestead area for $65, 000. This provision states, in
relevant part: "The Co-Trustees shall give an option
unto my son, Rodney G. Riskey, to purchase the
NE1/4-6-155-51, including any buildings thereon, and the
SE1/4-6-155-51 for the sum of $65, 000, said option
exercisable and payable in full within 6 months of [Annette
Riskey's] death." Jeffrey Riskey answered the
complaint in his capacity as co-trustee, responding that
Rodney Riskey had improperly, illegally, and unduly
influenced Annette Riskey during the formation of the Trust,
which caused the creation of Trust provisions that were not
Annette Riskey's personal desires and intentions.
4] In March 2016, brothers Jeffrey Riskey, Randy Riskey and
John Riskey, and family members representing deceased
brothers Joseph Riskey and Robert Riskey, commenced a
separate action seeking to reform the Trust. The Riskeys
claimed the trust provision containing the purchase option
was invalid, also alleging their brother Rodney Riskey had
exerted undue influence over their mother, Annette Riskey, in
creating the Trust with the purchase option. In June 2016,
the parties stipulated to joining the two cases for discovery
5] In August 2017, Rodney Riskey moved for summary judgment
in both of the cases, and the Riskeys opposed the motion.
After a September 2017 hearing, the district court granted
summary judgment in favor of Rodney Riskey, holding the
Riskeys had failed to present sufficient evidence to overcome
summary judgment on their undue influence claim.
6] Our standard for reviewing a district court's grant of