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Crops harvested under sharecropping agreement do not pass as part of the decedent's estate

Consistent with case law, the court held that the sharecrop agreement with a nonparty farmer (S) "severed the crops from the realty and required that they be treated as goods or personal property," not as part of the realty. "It is not important that the crops were not orally reserved." What was important was that "appellant had knowledge of the sharecrop agreement at the time he entered the settlement agreement." It also held that his due process rights were not violated. Thus, the court affirmed the probate court's decision that (1) overruled all of appellant-Hornak's objections to appellees-Kirk Amman's and F. Ron Hornak's petitions to allow accounts and payment of attorney fees, and (2) affirmed its prior order allowing those accounts and attorney fees. The decedent's will that was admitted to probate included a specific devise of an 80-acre parcel of land and accompanying fixtures to Amman. The remainder of her property was to be distributed "one share for each child of mine who survives me and one share for the decedents, per stirpes of each child of mine who fails to survive me." Appellant then produced unrecorded deeds related to the decedent's property. Those deeds were set aside by the probate court, and the court previously affirmed. An LLC was formed that was owned by all the heirs accounted for in the decedent's will except appellant, for the purpose of transferring most of the real property to the LLC. He argued that he was entitled to cash from the grain harvest on part of the 70 acres that was subject to a settlement agreement. Appellee-Boardman explained that the harvested crops were part of a sharecrop agreement with S. Because the agreement gave him 50 of the 70 acres, appellant argued, cash from the grain harvested on 50 acres of the land belonged to him. A necessary assumption of this argument was that "growing crops are part of the real property that passes with a conveyance of the land." Appellant relied on Blough. However, his argument misperceived the facts of Blough. The Supreme Court "did not find that there was an express oral reservation, merely that the purchaser had knowledge of a sharecrop agreement and that this knowledge created 'an oral understanding' that the crops were severed from the realty." The court also determined in Groth "that a 'Christmas tree crop was constructively severed from the real estate' by way of an agreement that third parties 'had a right of entry to spray, prune, care for, as well as to harvest and remove' the trees." Noticeably absent from the facts in Groth was a specific reservation of the trees in the deed between the buyer and seller. "What the Groth court focused on was the fact that the seller and the third parties considered the trees a crop and that the buyers of the real property had notice of the sale of the trees prior to receiving the deed."

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