Widower’s petition to transfer dead wife’s lands to him denied


Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has denied the petition of a widower, who is a non-Northern Marianas Descent, to transfer to him his decedent’s wife’ two parcels of land in Chalan Piao.

In two separate orders issued Friday, Camacho said since decedent Elpidia Dela Cruz Nauta is survived by NMD issue who may own real property in the CNMI, William A. Nauta Sr., as the non-NMD surviving spouse, may not inherit an interest in the Chalan Piao properties.

Camacho ruled that Elpidia Nauta’s NMD children—William Jr., Kenneth, and John—inherit the Chalan Piao properties.

William Sr. is a native of Guam. William Jr., Kenneth, and John are biological children of William Sr. and Elpidia.

Camacho further ruled that the ground lease for the Chalan Piao properties remains unsigned or unratified as to William Jr., Kenneth, and John.

The judge said as the rightful NMD owners of the Chalan Piao properties, only Elpidia’s NMD children William Jr., Kenneth, and John have the authority to sign or ratify the ground lease.

Camacho said in effect, the owner of the lease agreement is a tenant in common with William Jr., Kenneth, and John until they sign the lease or ratify such agreement.

In a separate but related order also issued last Friday, Camacho ruled that William Sr., a non-NMD widower cannot inherit lands of his decedent wife Elpidia, who was an NMD and has NMD children.

In that order granting a motion for reconsideration, Camacho said the CNMI Constitution, Article 12, Section 2 prohibits a non-NMD surviving spouse from inheriting land when a decedent has NMD issue who can own land.

Camacho ruled that since decedent Elpidia is survived by issue who are NMD and thus able to own land in the Commonwealth, the spouse, William Sr., who is a person of non-NMD, cannot acquire an interest in her Chalan Piao and Koblerville properties.

Camacho said issue is a term of art meaning “lineal descendants of all generations, with the relationship of parent and child at each generation being determined by the definitions of child and parent.”

The property at issue are two lots in Chalan Piao. The court has twice previously addressed whether William Sr. may inherit an interest in the properties.

The first of the two orders, issued on Dec. 1, 2017, held that William Sr. was eligible to inherit an interest in the Chalan Piao properties, but that the lease agreement to those properties remained unsigned.

The other order regarding the Chalan Piao properties was the court’s reconsideration of the first Chalan Piao order, issued last Friday.

Covered in the two separate orders also issued last Friday is William Sr.’s petition that seeks to have the Chalan Piao properties transferred to him, and the estate of Elpidia’s administratrix Bernadita Dela Cruz’s motion that asks for relief from an order regarding decedent’s properties in Chalan Piao.

According to the court’s orders, on Feb. 12, 2015, William Sr., William Jr., Kenneth, and John executed for a special power of attorney to Dr. Ignacio T. Dela Cruz to negotiate the sale or lease of the Chalan Piao properties.

The following day, Feb. 13, Dr. Dela Cruz entered into a ground lease for the Chalan Piao properties on behalf of the heirs, distributing proceeds of the lease equally amongst William Sr., William Jr., Kenneth, and John in four equal shares of $164,793.

In March 2015, William Sr., William Jr., and John revoked the special power of attorney given to Dr. Dela Cruz to act on their behalf.

The revocation stated that they were unaware that the clause in the special power of attorney stating that they would receive equal shares of the proceeds is in violation of the statute.

William Sr., William Jr., and John also claim that Dela Cruz did not forward a final draft of the lease to them for their review prior to its execution.

William Sr. ultimately challenged the distribution of the proceeds of the ground lease.

Camacho said the crux of William Sr.’s challenge was his claim that as the surviving spouse he is entitled to half of the properties.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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