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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Brother didn’t unduly influence parents in leaving him $15 million Lake Pend Oreille property, court rules

A photo of Lake Pend Oreille from property owned by the Green family since 1902. (Courtesy of Kathy LeFor)

BOISE - A son didn’t exert undue influence on his parents to leave him their entire $15 million Lake Pend Oreille property, cutting out other siblings, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled.

In a unanimous ruling the court rejected an appeal from three siblings of James Green, saying they failed to prove their brother had an opportunity to influence their parents, 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, Ralph and Jeanne Green.

The siblings – Randy and Gary Green and Kathy LeFor – contended that their parents wanted the 400 forested, lakefront acres 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.”

John Magnuson, the attorney who represented Green, said, “These are unfortunate things, these type of disputes are some of the most difficult ones. There are really no winners and losers at the end of the day, it’s just an unfortunate series of events. But Ralph and Jeanne had absolutely no doubt about what it was they were doing.”

The opinion was authored by Justice Joel Horton and joined by the court’s other justices, including now-retired Chief Justice Jim Jones.