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Non-NMD spouse of late justice seeks short-term interest in his land

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The surviving spouse of the late Pedro Manglona Atalig, a former justice of the CNMI Supreme Court, seeks to inherit an interest in some of her husband’s real properties even though she is not of Northern Marianas descent.

Atalig’s spouse, Nelida B. Atalig, through her lawyer, Joseph E. Horey, said her proposed distribution of her late husband’s property does not violate Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution, and should be approved by the Superior Court.

She seeks to inherit an interest in some of her husband’s real properties, an interest for a term not to exceed 55 year. In recognition of the restrictions imposed by Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution, Horey said that Nelida Atalig seeks a short-term interest only.

Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution limits landownership in the Commonwealth to persons of Northern Marianas descent. But, according to Horey, Article 12 only prohibits a non-NMD surviving spouse from inheriting a permanent and long-term interest in land when a decedent has NMD children who can own land. Since the distribution that Nelida Atalig proposes would not result in her inheriting such an interest, it does not violate Article 12.

Moreover, he said, his Nelida Atalig’s proposed distribution conforms to CNMI law. As the surviving spouse, she would ordinarily be statutorily entitled to one-half of all his properties, as well as “the primary family home and lot.” Since she is a non-NMD, however, she takes only “the maximum allowable legal interest”’ and the maximum allowable interest is no less than the 55-year interest, which Nelida proposes.

The Superior Court is set to hear the matter in an evidentiary hearing on April 22.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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