In re Estate of Kuralt, 00-235.

Docket NºNo. 00-235.
Citation15 P.3d 931, 303 Mont. 335, 2000 MT 359
Case DateDecember 27, 2000
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

15 P.3d 931
2000 MT 359
303 Mont. 335

In re the ESTATE OF Charles KURALT, Deceased

No. 00-235.

Supreme Court of Montana.

Submitted on Briefs October 26, 2000.

Decided December 27, 2000.

Keith Strong and John Kutzman, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Great Falls, MT, Todd R. Hillier, Schraudner & Hillier, William S. Dockins, Attorney at Law, Bozeman, MT, For Appellant.

Jame H. Goetz, Goetz, Hallik, Baldwin & Dolan, Bozeman, MT, For Respondent.

Justice TERRY N. TRIEWEILER delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Elizabeth Shannon, longtime personal companion of the deceased, Charles Kuralt, challenged the testamentary disposition of

15 P.3d 932
Kuralt's real and personal property in the District Court for the Fifth Judicial District in Madison County. The District Court initially granted partial summary judgment in favor of the Estate and Shannon appealed. This Court reversed the District Court and remanded for a determination of disputed issues of material fact. Following an evidentiary hearing, the District Court found that Kuralt executed a valid holographic codicil which expressed his testamentary intent to transfer the Madison County property to Shannon. The Estate now appeals from the order and judgment of the District Court. We affirm the District Court's order and judgment

¶ 2 The parties present issues on appeal which we restate as follows:

¶ 3 1. Did the District Court err when it found that the June 18, 1997 letter expressed a present testamentary intent to transfer property in Madison County?

¶ 4 2. Did the District Court err when it held that the letter was a codicil without affording the parties an opportunity to be heard on that issue?


¶ 5 Most of the relevant facts were previously before this Court. See In re Estate of Kuralt (Kuralt I), 1999 MT 111, 294 Mont. 354, 981 P.2d 771. To summarize, Charles Kuralt and Elizabeth Shannon maintained a longterm and intimate personal relationship. Kuralt and Shannon desired to keep their relationship secret, and were so successful in doing so that even though Kuralt's wife, Petie, knew that Kuralt owned property in Montana, she was unaware, prior to Kuralt's untimely death, of his relationship with Shannon.

¶ 6 Over the nearly 30-year course of their relationship, Kuralt and Shannon saw each other regularly and maintained contact by phone and mail. Kuralt was the primary source of financial support for Shannon and established close, personal relationships with Shannon's three children. Kuralt provided financial support for a joint business venture managed by Shannon and transferred a home in Ireland to Shannon as a gift.

¶ 7 In 1985, Kuralt purchased a 20-acre parcel of property along the Big Hole River in Madison County, near Twin Bridges, Montana. Kuralt and Shannon constructed a cabin on this 20-acre parcel. In 1987, Kuralt purchased two additional parcels along the Big Hole which adjoined the original 20-acre parcel. These two additional parcels, one upstream and one downstream of the cabin, created a parcel of approximately 90 acres and are the primary subject of this appeal.

¶ 8 On May 3, 1989, Kuralt executed a holographic will which stated as follows:

May 3, 1989
In the event of my death, I bequeath to Patricia Elizabeth Shannon all my interest in land, buildings, furnishings and personal belongings on Burma Road, Twin Bridges, Montana.
Charles Kuralt
34 Bank St.
New York, N.Y. 10014

¶ 9 Although Kuralt mailed a copy of this holographic will to Shannon, he subsequently executed a formal will on May 4, 1994, in New York City. This Last Will and Testament, prepared with the assistance of counsel, does not specifically mention any of the real property owned by Kuralt. The beneficiaries of Kuralt's Last Will and Testament were his wife, Petie, and the Kuralts' two children. Neither Shannon nor her children are named as beneficiaries in Kuralt's formal will. Shannon had no knowledge of the formal will until the commencement of these proceedings.

¶ 10 On April 9, 1997, Kuralt deeded his interest in the original 20-acre parcel with the cabin to Shannon. The transaction was disguised as a sale. However, Kuralt supplied the "purchase" price for the 20-acre parcel to Shannon prior to the transfer. After the deed to the 20-acre parcel was filed, Shannon sent Kuralt, at his request, a blank buy-sell real estate form so that the remaining 90 acres along the Big Hole could be conveyed to Shannon in a similar manner. Apparently, it was again Kuralt's intention to provide the purchase price. The second transaction was to take place in September

15 P.3d 933
1997 when Shannon, her son, and Kuralt agreed to meet...

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  • Albinger v. Harris, 99-611.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 6 Junio 2002
    ...of review of a district court's conclusions of law is whether the court's interpretation of the law is correct. In re Estate of Kuralt, 2000 MT 359, ¶ 14, 303 Mont. 335, ¶ 14, 15 P.3d 931, ¶ Issue 1. ¶ 14 Did the District Court err in determining an engagement ring is a conditional gift tha......
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    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 23 Enero 2023 Estate of Elliot, 2022 MT 9 IN at ¶ 26 (rejecting Ian's claimed right to a jury trial). 20. Ann and Jenny quote In re Estate of Kuralt, 2000 MT 359, ¶ 14, 303 Mont. 335, 15 P.3d 931. [Dkt. 35.01 at 7.] Kuralt does not analyze Mont. Code Ann. §§ 72-3-701 or 72-3-526. 21. "In 1974, Montana......
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    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 21 Abril 2003
    ...before this Court. See In re Estate of Kuralt (Kuralt I), 1999 MT 111, 294 Mont. 354, 981 P.2d 771; Estate of Kuralt (Kuralt II), 2000 MT 359, 303 Mont. 335, 15 P.3d 931; and Estate of Kuralt (Kuralt III), 2001 MT 153, 306 Mont. 73, 30 P.3d 345. We review only the relevant procedural histor......
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    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 29 Abril 2003
    ...¶ 15 The standard of review of a district court's findings of fact is whether they are clearly erroneous. In re Estate of Charles Kuralt, 2000 MT 359, ¶ 14, 303 Mont. 335, ¶ 14, 15 P.3d 931, ¶ 14 (citing Daines v. Knight (1995), 269 Mont. 320, 324, 888 P.2d 904, 906). A district court's fin......
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