Ramsey County District Court File No. C8-03-2612.
Considered and decided by Shumaker , Presiding Judge; Lansing , Judge; and Forsberg , Judge.
Donative documents, even if unambiguous, may be reformed to effect the donor's intention if clear and convincing evidence establishes what the donor's intention was and that a mistake of fact or law, either in expression or inducement, affected specific terms of the document.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Forsberg, Judge
Affirmed ; motion granted
The district court granted summary judgment to respondents, the surviving children of a deceased father, reforming the deed by which the deceased father had left his residential property so that the children inherited as joint tenants rather than as tenants in common. Appellant, the estate of a son who predeceased the father, opposes that summary judgment. Because no genuine issue of material fact and no error of law precludes the judgment, we affirm.
In 1991, Vernon Magnuson filed a quitclaim deed (the 1991 deed) preserving for himself a life interest in his residential property and deeding it after his death to his three children, Michael Magnuson, Kristine Diekmann, and Jeffrey Magnuson. The 1991 deed did not specify either joint tenancy or tenancy in common for the children.
In 1999, Vernon Magnuson altered his will to provide that, if his son Michael Magnuson predeceased him, his estate was to be divided between Kristine Diekmann and Jeffrey Magnuson. In July 2001, after learning that his son Michael Magnuson had a potentially fatal illness, Vernon Magnuson, with the advice of his attorney, executed another deed (the 2001 deed) conveying his residential property to his three children as joint tenants. Michael Magnuson died in August 2001; his widow, Maureen Magnuson, became the personal representative of his estate. Vernon Magnuson died in December 2001.
Kristine Diekmann and Jeffrey Magnuson, relying on the 2001 deed and assuming that they were now joint tenants who each had a half interest in the residential property, executed a purchase agreement whereby Kristine Diekmann paid Jeffrey Magnuson half the appraised value of the property and he conveyed to her marketable title to the property.
But a title insurance company then informed them that the 1991 deed precluded it from issuing a policy. Jeffrey Magnuson and Maureen Magnuson as the personal representative of Michael Magnuson's estate then filed a complaint against Kristine Diekmann seeking an order declaring that, pursuant to the 1991 deed, the property was owned in one-third shares by the estate of Michael Magnuson, by Jeffrey Magnuson, and by Kristine Diekmann, and directing that it be sold and the proceeds divided among them.
Kristine Diekmann filed an answer and counterclaim seeking an order stating that she and Jeffrey Magnuson owned the property as joint tenants and enforcing their purchase agreement. All parties moved for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the district court granted Kristine Diekmann's motion and reformed the 1991 deed so that she and Jeffrey ...