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In re Estate of Moore

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 3, 2018

In the Matter of the Estate of Delbert G. Moore, Deceased Charles Minard, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Delbert G. Moore, deceased, Petitioner and Appellant
v.
Donald B. Moore and Scott Moore, Respondents and Appellees and Glenn W. Moore & Sons, Claimant and Appellee and Candice Eberhart and Terry Minard, Respondents

          Appeal from the District Court of Dickey County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable John E. Greenwood, Judge.

          Kimberly J. Radermacher, LaMoure, ND, for petitioner and appellant.

          Tyler J. Malm, Bismarck, ND, for respondents, claimant and appellees.

          VANDEWALLE, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] Charles Minard, personal representative of the Estate of Delbert Moore, appealed a judgment denying the Estate's claim for rent from the Glenn W. Moore & Sons Partnership for the partnership's use of real property owned by Delbert Moore. We conclude the Estate is not entitled to rent; however, the district court erred by failing to account for the Estate's interest in the partnership after Delbert Moore's death. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

         I

         [¶ 2] Delbert Moore died on March 5, 2012. Before his death, Moore was a partner with his brother Donald Moore and nephew Scott Moore in the Glenn W. Moore & Sons partnership, a ranching business formed in 1960. In January 1990, Delbert and Donald Moore executed an "Addition and Clarification of Partnership Agreement [1]." The agreement states the partnership "has two equal partners; Delbert G. Moore and Donald B. Moore." "Partnership profits and losses are shared equally between the partners; and each has an undivided half interest in the partnership." The partners co-owned approximately 2, 500 acres of land and contributed it to the partnership without charge:

Land owned as tenants in common by Delbert and Donald Moore is contributed to the partnership without charge. The partnership is responsible for all costs and management associated with the land and treats the land as if owned by the partnership. This contribution cannot be retracted except on dissolution of the partnership or agreement by both partners. Any land owned [by] other persons operated by the partnership is leased by the partnership and not by individual partners.

         The agreement also stated "This partnership is not automatically dissolved on death of a partner; however, the estate of a deceased partner cannot make business decisions for the partnership without the approval of the surviving partner."

         [¶ 3] Delbert Moore's will devised a small portion of his real property to Donald Moore. Delbert Moore's will devised the remainder of his real property to his step-children, Candice Eberhart, Terry Minard, and Charles Minard; and his nephew, Scott Moore, subject to the condition that the property "be sold in a commercially reasonable manner so as to derive the most value therefrom within six (6) months of my death."

         [¶ 4] In May 2012, Charles Minard conveyed Delbert Moore's real property interest to Candice Eberhart, Terry Minard, Charles Minard, and Scott Moore. Charles Minard, Terry Minard, and Candice Eberhart commenced a partition action contemporaneous to the conveyance, requesting a sale of the property co-owned by Delbert and Donald Moore. Donald Moore challenged the conveyance, arguing the Estate should have sold Delbert Moore's property rather than conveying it. The district court issued a September 2014 order vacating the conveyance, reverting title to Delbert Moore's property back to the Estate. The parallel partition action resulted in a May 2015 sale of Delbert and Donald Moore's real property.

         [¶ 5] The partnership continued to farm and ranch the land after Delbert Moore's death, and did not account to the Estate for its continued use of the property. The Estate claimed the partnership owed rent for its continued use of Delbert Moore's property from the date of Delbert Moore's death until the date the property was sold. The Estate argued it was entitled to rent under the partnership agreement and under the theory of unjust enrichment because the partnership was enriched to the detriment of the Estate.

         [¶ 6] After a hearing relating to the value of Delbert Moore's partnership interest, the district court entered a judgment denying the Estate's claim for rent. The court held that under the agreement the partnership was not liable for rent for six months after Delbert Moore's death. The court stated that under the agreement the partners intended that there be an extended period of time after a partner's death to allow the continuation of the partnership while the surviving partner or partners decided how to proceed. The judgment also clarified the earlier order vacating the deed conveying Delbert Moore's property to his devisees. The judgment stated the parties intended for the order to revert title back to the Estate as of September 12, 2014. Therefore, the court concluded the Estate did not have standing to request rent from May 11, 2012, to September 12, 2014, because the ...


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