In re McCoy, A21-1151

CourtCourt of Appeals of Minnesota
Writing for the CourtSLIETER, JUDGE
PartiesIn re the Estate of: Terry Lee McCoy, Deceased.
Docket NumberA21-1151
Decision Date13 June 2022

In re the Estate of: Terry Lee McCoy, Deceased.

No. A21-1151

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 13, 2022


This opinion is nonprecedential except as provided by Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 136.01, subd. 1(c).

Traverse County District Court File No. 78-PR-20-198

Anton Cheskis, Huemoeller, Gontarek & Cheskis PLC, Prior Lake, Minnesota (for appellant Carrie McCoy)

Jason G. Lina, Fluegel, Anderson, McLaughlin, & Brutlag, Chartered, Morris, Minnesota (for respondent Ruth Drewicke)

Considered and decided by Slieter, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Judge; and Smith, John, Judge. [*]

SLIETER, JUDGE

Appellant-personal representative challenges the district court's order directing specific performance of a real estate sale based on a purchase agreement which had been executed by the decedent and respondent. Because decedent waived the time-is-of-the-essence clause and respondent timely sought specific performance, we affirm.

1

FACTS

Decedent Terry Lee McCoy owned real property near Wheaton (the property). On April 2, 2020, decedent executed a written purchase agreement to sell the property to respondent Ruth Anne Drewicke. The purchase agreement establishes a sale closing date of May 15, 2020 and provides for a 30-day extension of the closing date, to June 14, "[i]n the event Seller has not provided marketable title by the date of closing." The purchase agreement also states that "[t]ime is of the essence."

A preliminary title opinion revealed multiple defects rendering the title unmarketable, which decedent could not remedy by the May 15 closing date. Decedent remedied these defects by June 11, and a closing was scheduled for June 22.

On June 18, decedent was reported missing. His body was found on July 6, 2020, in a creek bed approximately 11 miles from the property. He was the victim of an apparent homicide.

Following decedent's disappearance, Drewicke's husband communicated with decedent's daughter, appellant-personal representative Carrie McCoy, about maintenance of the property and options to close the sale. Over the next six months, McCoy expressed her intention "to honor [decedent's] wishes by selling you guys his home" and represented that she was commencing a probate proceeding, which would facilitate closure of the sale. However, because McCoy had not started a probate proceeding, Drewicke petitioned the district court for appointment as special administrator on December 16. The district court granted Drewicke's petition on December 21. McCoy subsequently petitioned for appointment as personal representative, and Drewicke withdrew her petition.

2

The district court appointed McCoy personal representative of decedent's estate on March 29, 2021. On May 28, Drewicke moved to compel performance of the purchase agreement by requiring McCoy to close the real estate sale to Drewicke, which the district court ordered. McCoy appeals.

DECISION

"Specific performance of a contract to convey real estate is a well-recognized remedy . . . governed by fixed principles." Boulevard Plaza Corp. v. Campbell, 94 N.W.2d 273, 284 (Minn. 1959). "[I]f satisfactory proof is made that the contract is fair and was fairly made, specific performance should be decreed. But specific performance of a contract to convey real estate is not a matter of absolute right, and if enforcement would be unconscionable or inequitable, performance will not be decreed." Id.

The parties agree that the motion for specific performance is "analogous to a motion for summary judgment" and that our review is, therefore, de novo. However, because we review an equitable order, our standard of review is not necessarily de novo. "Specific performance is an equitable remedy addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court." LaPanta v. Heidelberger, 392 N.W.2d 254, 257 (Minn.App. 1986) (quoting Flynn v. Sawyer, 272 N.W.2d 904, 910 (Minn. 1978)). Equitable decisions of the district court warrant deference because it "is in the best position to analyze the facts and balance the relevant factors." Melrose Gates, LLC v. Chor Moua, 875 N.W.2d 814, 819 (Minn. 2016). However, when the district court grants equitable relief as a matter of law without considering the equities of the particular situation, the less deferential de novo standard of review typically applied to summary judgment, may be appropriate. Brown v. Lee, 859 N.W.2d 836, 839-40 (Minn.App. 2015),

3

rev. denied (Minn. May 19, 2015) (concluding that "a more...

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