Itasca County District Court File No. P0-01-01635
Considered and decided by Klaphake , Presiding Judge, Willis , Judge, and
Anderson , Judge.
1. Title to real property cannot be transferred to a decedent by a posthumous quitclaim deed.
2. In order to reform a deed, the proponent of reformation must present clear and convincing evidence that the deed failed to express the real intentions of the parties and that this failure was due to a mutual mistake of the parties or a unilateral mistake accompanied by fraud or inequitable conduct by the other party.
3. Where the evidence is clear and convincing that it would be morally wrong to retain property, a constructive trust for the benefit of the intended recipient may be imposed on transferred property.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Klaphake, Judge
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Appellants Brad Lovdahl, personal representative of the estate of Bette Janiece Savich, and Buddy John Savich, Buddy Jason Savich, and Gary Lotton, devisees of the estate, challenge the district court's order (1) determining that quitclaim deeds signed after Savich's death were ineffective to transfer title; (2) refusing to reform these deeds; and (3) refusing to impose a constructive trust on land conveyed by Savich to respondents Bobbie Hendrickson, Philip Hendrickson, and Brian Hendrickson. Because real property may not be transferred to a decedent by deed signed after the death and because there was not clear and convincing evidence that would support reformation of the deeds, we affirm the district court on these issues. But because there is clear and convincing evidence here that Savich intended respondents to hold the land in trust for others, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to impose a constructive trust. We therefore reverse and remand for imposition of a constructive trust consistent with this decision.
Decedent Savich and her husband owned a farm of approximately 500 acres. Shortly after her husband's death in 1997, Savich decided to deed her farm acreage to her children, reserving a life estate, in order to protect the land if she had to enter a nursing home. Savich divided the land into parcels of various sizes, placed slips of paper with the descriptions of the parcels into a hat, and permitted her children, Brenda, Buddy Jason, Buddy John, Dana, and her nephew Gary Lotton to each pick a parcel. However, because Dana was in the midst of a divorce, Savich decided not to deed Dana any property. In May 1997, Savich deeded her farm acreage as follows: