In the Matter of the MAURICE M. RICARD FAMILY TRUST
CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON AUGUST 29, 2016
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MEADE
COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE JEROME A. ECKRICH, III
JEFFREY R. CONNOLLY of Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson &
Ashmore, LLP Rapid City, South Dakota and JASON L. REED of
Adam Jones Law Firm, PA Wichita, Kansas Attorneys for
Racette Cuzzort, Individually & as Trustee of the Mary
Bettwy Trust & Anna Marsden.
MICHAEL W. STRAIN of Strain Morman Law Firm Sturgis, South
Dakota Attorneys for appellee Kelly Ricard.
Many years after the sisters sold their respective interests
in the family trust to one brother, the sisters sought to
rescind their agreements and repurchase their respective
interests. The sisters alleged that their brother obtained
their consent to sell through fraud and undue influence.
After a two-day court trial, the circuit court denied the
sisters' request. The sisters appeal. We affirm.
Maurice Ricard and his wife, Ella "Bernadette"
Ricard, had six children: Kelly Ricard, Renee Anderson (now
Renee Laas), Anna Henrickson (now Anna Marsden), Racette
Cuzzort, Medric Ricard, and Mary Bettwy. Maurice and
Bernadette each owned an undivided, one-half interest in the
real property comprising the Ricard family ranch. They wanted
the ranch to stay intact, remain in the family, and operate
as a ranch. Since 1998, their son Kelly leased the real
estate to graze cattle.
Maurice passed away on August 11, 2002. Bernadette, as
personal representative, admitted Maurice's Last Will and
Testament to probate. The Will created The Maurice M. Ricard
Family Trust (Family Trust or Trust). The Family Trust
appointed Renee as trustee. The Family Trust provided that
the real property owned by Maurice would be held by the Trust
for the use and benefit of Bernadette during her lifetime.
Bernadette, as personal representative, conveyed
Maurice's undivided, one-half interest in the real
property to the Family Trust. The Trust further provided
that, upon the death of Bernadette, the Trust would terminate
and Kelly would receive 50% of the assets, Renee, Anna, and
Racette would each receive 12.5%, and the remaining 12.5%
would be placed in a trust for the benefit of Mary.
In 2003, Bernadette formed the Ricard Ranch Family Limited
Partnership for estate planning purposes on the advice of
attorney Kurt Solay. Attorney Solay had been giving Maurice
and Bernadette estate planning advice since 1998, and
continued to give Bernadette advice after Maurice's
death. In regard to the Limited Partnership, Bernadette and
Kelly were the general partners. Later, Bernadette assigned
her general partnership interest to Kelly. The Family Trust
was a limited partner. On November 20, 2003, Renee, as
trustee of the Family Trust, conveyed the undivided, one-half
interest in the real property owned by the Family Trust to
the Limited Partnership. Bernadette similarly transferred her
undivided, one-half ownership in the real property to the
In November 2003, Kelly offered to purchase the sisters'
respective 12.5% interests in the Family Trust for $20, 000
each. The offer included an option to purchase, providing
that each sister could purchase back their interest under
certain circumstances. The sisters accepted Kelly's
offer, signed the agreements to sell (Agreements), and
negotiated the $20, 000 checks mailed to them by Attorney
Solay. After the purchase, the sisters no longer held an
interest in the Family Trust. According to Renee, the sisters
believed they would inherit from Bernadette's estate when
In October 2008, the Limited Partnership transferred
approximately 80 acres of real estate to Bernadette for
estate planning purposes. According to Kelly, the 80 acres
comprised Bernadette's personal residence. The Family
Trust owned an undivided, one-half interest in the 80 acres.
In August 2010, Bernadette passed away. Upon its terms, the
Family Trust terminated. Renee, as trustee, took no action to
distribute the Trust assets following Bernadette's death.
Under the Trust, the assets would have been distributed to
Kelly because he owned a 50% interest and purchased each
sister's 12.5% interest. Kelly filed a petition for
distribution in January 2013. The sisters objected and filed
a petition for determination of beneficiary status. The
sisters challenged the enforcement of the Agreements signed
by them selling their respective 12.5% interests in the
Family Trust to Kelly. They sought to rescind the Agreements
due to fraud and undue influence by Kelly. Renee claimed that
although she negotiated the $20, 000 check, she sent the
funds back to Kelly and Bernadette. According to Renee, she