Family Dispute over Farmland Lease Gets Nasty.

At issue in this case was a lease of 175 acres of farmland among family members.  Dad died in 2003 and Mom died in 2007, and their beneficiaries were their five children.  At the time of Dad's death, it was believed that Mom and Dad owned the farmland in joint tenancy.  Accordingly, Mom put the farmland in a trust and retained a life estate.  The land was leased to a daughter and the land was managed by another child of the parents.  The daughter ultimately terminated the lease and the land was then leased to other family members.  After Mom's death, it was discovered that the land was actually owned by Mom and Dad as tenants in common rather than in join tenancy.  The existing lease continued, but then other family members sued for higher rent on the basis that the lease had actually terminated upon Mom's death.  Under state (IL) law an exception from the statutorily-required notice of termination applies when the landlord dies holding merely a life estate.  However, the court held that the exception did not apply because the trust owned the land, not the decedent.  Thus, due to lack of termination notice being given under state law (at least four months before end of the lease calendar year), the lease had not been terminated.  Lower v. Appel, No. 2-13-1288, 2015 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1458 (Ill. Ct. App. Jun. 29, 2015).

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