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,
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.
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.
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 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
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
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 ...