A unanimous Idaho Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from three siblings who charged that their brother exerted “undue influence” over their parents to leave him their full shares in the family’s $15 million property on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
In an opinion authored by Justice Joel Horton and joined by the court’s other justices, including now-retired Chief Justice Jim Jones, the court found that Randy and Gary Green and Kathy LeFor failed to prove that their brother James had an opportunity to influence their parents, Ralph and Jeanne Green, to leave the 400 forested lakefront acres to him, including 3,500 feet of shoreline, in part because he didn’t live with them.
Plus, the court held, “All amendments to the trust were prepared by attorneys who had little contact with James.” The attorney who drafted the key amendment to the trust – cutting out the other siblings and leaving 100 percent to James – testified that he did so at the request of the parents.
The siblings contended that their parents wanted the property preserved and kept in the family, but James planned to develop it. Ralph Green died in 2013; Jeanne Green, 93, is still alive, but is incapacitated.
The bitter dispute divided the family. The property was first homesteaded by Jeanne Green’s ancestors in 1902.
James Green welcomed the court ruling. “I think it’s fair,” he said.
He said he felt his siblings misrepresented his intentions, and said they repeatedly angered his parents by their actions in the past few years, including questioning their parents’ competency.
Green said he’s had 30,000 seedlings replanted in a portion of the property that was heavily logged, as part of a plan to increase the health of the forest by shifting its tree species. “What I see happening in the future is that there’ll be a minimal amount of development in terms of acreage, and most of it will be put into a conservation easement,” he said.
Green said he’s long advocated that approach, saying it would provide the income stream needed to maintain the property. “As I used to say to the family, the difference between a littered, vacant lot and a park is money.”
He said, “I think that we should continue the pragmatic management style of my grandparents.”