Estate of Kuralt
Montana Supreme Court
981 P.2d 771 (1999)
Charles Kuralt lived in New York with his wife, Suzanna “Petie” Kuralt (defendant) but owned riverfront property in Montana, where he built a cabin with longtime intimate partner Patricia Shannon (plaintiff). Kuralt regularly gave Shannon and her children gifts over the course of their long relationship. Kuralt’s will, however, left all his real property and his residuary estate to Petie. Petie filed a probate petition in New York and a proof of authority in Montana to probate the river property. Shannon filed a petition for probate in Montana and produced a letter Kuralt wrote shortly before death stating he wanted Shannon to have the property. The letter states, in part, “I’ll have the lawyer visit the hospital to be sure you inherit the rest of the place in MT. [I]f it comes to that.” The word inherit was underlined in the original. Petie argued that the letter was merely an expression of intent to devise the property at a later date. The district court agreed with Petie, finding that the letter conveyed an intent to create a separate testamentary instrument and was not a valid holographic codicil. The district court thus granted Petie partial summary judgment. Shannon appealed and argued that extrinsic evidence of her ongoing relationship with Kuralt and history of receiving gifts was admissible regardless of any ambiguity in the letter.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Leaphart, J.)
Dissent (Turnage, C.J.)
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