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Parks v. Parks

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

June 12, 2019

RAYMOND PARKS; CHARLES PARKS; ARLENE PARKS, as Special Representative of the Estate of Robert Parks; GEORGE R. MUELLER; KATHLEEN REASON, Personally and as Special Representative of the Estate of Anna Mueller; DON P. MUELLER; MICHAEL MUELLER; and JAMES MUELLER, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
JAMES D. PARKS, Personally and as the Executor of the James C. Parks Estate and the Successor Trustee of the William Parks Jr. Revocable Living Trust; and JOHN L. PARKS, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. Circuit No. 12-MR-44 The Honorable Mark A. VandeWiele, Judge, presiding.

          McDADE, JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Schmidt and Justice O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          McDADE, JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Plaintiffs filed a complaint for the ejectment of defendant James D. Parks (James D.), arguing that they are entitled to possession of a farm under the will of Laura Parks (Laura). Both parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court denied plaintiffs' motion and partially granted defendants' motion, determining that (1) James D. had possessory rights to the farm through a contractual agreement between William Parks Jr. (Will Jr.) and Laura and the subsequent conveyance of Will Jr.'s interest in the farm and (2) plaintiffs' claim was barred by laches. Plaintiffs appealed. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In a two-step transaction on April 8 and 9, 1943, William Parks Sr. (Will Sr.) effectively conveyed 332 acres of land in Rock Island, Illinois (Parks Farm), which he had previously solely owned, to himself and his wife, Laura Parks, in joint tenancy. The two deeds effecting this conveyance were recorded on April 12, 1943.

         ¶ 4 The couple had five[1] children: William (Will Jr.); John D.; Robert; Anna; and Donald. Will Jr. had one son, James C. John D. predeceased his parents, leaving three children: John L., Charles, and Raymond. John L. had one son, James D. Donald, who died without children, predeceased Laura.

         ¶ 5 Sometime during 1946-47, Will Sr. and Laura moved from Parks Farm to a house on another farm. Around the same time, Will Jr. returned from the war, and he and his wife, Edythe, moved into Parks Farm and farmed the land. In 1960, Will Sr. and Laura purchased and moved into a home in Aledo, Illinois. Aside from a brief stay in an assisted living center, Will Jr. lived and worked on Parks Farm from the time he and Edythe took possession in the mid-1940s until his death in 2002.

         ¶ 6 In October 1960, Laura wrote separate letters to her other surviving children, Robert, John D., and Anna, informing them that she and Will Sr. intended to sell Parks Farm to Will Jr. Specifically, in her letter to Robert, Laura explained that they were contracting to sell Parks Farm to Will Jr. for $60, 000 ($80, 000 minus an advancement of Will Jr.'s anticipated $20, 000 inheritance from their estates) and Will Jr.'s commitment to co-sign on and to solely pay a mortgage on Parks Farm to help his parents purchase their house in Aledo.

         ¶ 7 In conformity with the letter, in September 1960, Will Sr., Laura, Will Jr., and Edythe signed a $17, 000 mortgage provided by Prudential Insurance Company on Parks Farm. (Will Jr. paid the mortgage in full in May 1978-29 months early.) Will Sr. and Laura moved to the house in Aledo. In February 1961, again in conformity with the letter, Will Jr. entered into an agreement with Will Sr. and Laura to purchase Parks Farm for $60, 000. The agreement states, in relevant part:

"The said Parties of the First Part hereby covenant and agree to convey the said premises above described, or cause the same to be conveyed, to the said Party of the Second Part by a good and sufficient Warranty Deed executed by the Parties of the First Part in due form of law, which Deed shall be delivered to the said Party of the Second Part upon payment being made as hereinafter provided.
It is agreed by and between the parties hereto that the taxes on said premises for the year 1960 payable in the year 1961 are to be paid by Parties of the Second Part. Possession of said premises shall be delivered to the said Party of the Second Part on or before the 1st day of March 1961.
On his part the said Party of the Second Part agrees to pay to said Parties of the First Part, or the survivors, the sum of Sixty Thousand ($60, 000.00) Dollars in the manner following: Assuming by him of real estate mortgage now a lien upon said premises in favor of The Prudential Insurance Company of America in the principal sum of Seventeen Thousand and no/100 ($17, 000.00) Dollars, it being understood that said mortgage lien draws interest at the rate of six (6) per cent per annum and the Party of the Second Part is to pay installment of principal and interest due on said mortgage lien March 1st, 1961; and the remainder of the purchase price being the sum of Forty-three Thousand and no/100 ($43, 000.00) Dollars, on or before Ten (10) years from the March 1st following the date of the death of the survivor of the Parties of the First Part, together with interest at the rate of four (4) per cent per annum, payable annually, from March 1st, 1961, to the March 1st following the date of the death of the survivor of the Parties of the First Part, and with interest at the rate of four (4) per cent per annum payable annually, from March 1st two (2) years after the March 1st following the date of the death of the survivor of the Parties of the First Part, it being the intention of the parties hereto that Party of the Second Part shall be relieved from paying any interest for two (2) years immediately following the date of death of the survivor of the Parties of the First Part."

         ¶ 8 According to the agreement, Will Jr. had an interest payment due annually in the amount of $1720 ($43, 000 x 4%), beginning on March 1, 1961. On the last page of the agreement, there were handwritten notes apparently showing interest payments made from 1962 to 1977. There was no notation for the year of 1972 nor for any year after 1977. No deed conveying Parks Farm from Will Sr. and Laura to Will Jr. was ever recorded. The record contains no document from Laura and/or Will Sr. advising Robert, Anna, or John D. that Will Jr. had either completed or defaulted on the purchase of which she had previously advised them. Nor is there any allegation that such information had ever been conveyed to them.

         ¶ 9 Will Sr. died in March 1985. Laura died four years later in October 1989. If the terms of the purchase agreement had not previously been completed, by its terms, Laura's death fixed the final payment date on the farm as March 1, 2000.

         ¶ 10 Laura had executed her last will on June 11, 1988-16 months prior to her death. The will made no mention of Parks Farm as part of her estate, made no provision for the receipt and crediting of any payments owing from Will Jr. for Parks Farm, and contained the following residuary clause:

"I give the residue of my estate, excluding any property over which I have a power of appointment at my death, to the following described persons or ...

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