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Roslyn Shephard, Personal Representative v. Robert Widhalm and Dianna Widhalm

December 4, 2012

ROSLYN SHEPHARD, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF PAUL F. WIDHALM; AND ROSLYN SHEPHARD, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF EVONNE WIDHALM, PLAINTIFF, APPELLANT, AND CROSS-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT WIDHALM AND DIANNA WIDHALM, DEFENDANTS, APPELLEES, AND CROSS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Ninth Judicial District, In and For the County of Pondera, Cause No. DV 09-52 Honorable Laurie McKinnon, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Brian Morris

Submitted on Briefs: September 19, 2012

Decided: December 4, 2012

Filed: Clerk

Justice Brian Morris delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 Roslyn Shephard ("Shephard") appeals an order from the Ninth Judicial District, Pondera County, as Personal Representative of the estates of Paul Widhalm ("Paul") and Evonne Widhalm ("Evonne"). Robert Widhalm ("Robert") and Dianna Widhalm (collectively, "the Widhalms") cross-appeal. We affirm.

¶2 The following issues are presented for our review:

¶3 Issue One: Whether the District Court correctly determined that the lease executed on May 11, 2009, was valid without Shephard's signature as the Personal Representative of Paul's estate.

¶4 Issue Two: Whether substantial evidence supports the District Court's finding that the Widhalms had not sublet the farm in violation of the lease.

¶5 Issue Three: Whether the District Court correctly determined that the terms of the lease entitled the Widhalms to notice of their alleged breach and an opportunity to cure.

¶6 Issue Four: Whether the District Court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees to the Widhalms on an hourly basis.

¶7 Issue Five: Whether the District Court correctly determined that the Widhalms had not proven that they suffered damages other than lost crop inputs by a preponderance of the evidence.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

¶8 Paul and Evonne owned a farm in Pondera County as tenants in common worth $1,652,850. Paul and Evonne each executed a will that left their property first to each other and then to their eight children. Paul and Evonne leased the farm to their eldest child, Robert, and his wife, Dianna, in 1998. Robert had helped Paul farm the land for most of his adult life.

¶9 The term of the first lease ran from January 1, 1999, through December 31, 2003. The lease included an option to re-lease the property for an additional five years, an option to purchase the property for $400,000, and a prohibition against subletting the farm without prior written permission from Paul and Evonne.

ΒΆ10 The Widhalms exercised their option to re-lease the land at the end of the first lease. The parties executed a second lease on December 31, 2003. This second lease ran through the end of 2008. The second lease mirrored the first lease in all respects other than the lease term. The second lease included the same option ...


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