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Negotiations followed without success, so in October the society filed a lawsuit in Carver County District Court seeking guaranteed access because the property was transferred with an “implied easement.”
The sons filed a counter claim that seeks dismissal of the lawsuit, and also to cancel the deed transfer and the society’s ownership rights to the property. The complaint claims that the deed and the letter of agreement with the state were “procured through undue influence, fraudulent misrepresentation,” and withholding of important facts, and that Ward Holasek could not “fairly and reasonably understand the consequences and meaning” of his actions.
Furthermore, said attorney Bard, the family will receive almost nothing in the will if the deed transfer to the historical society is not canceled, and leaving the family so little was not Ward Holasek’s intent. “It’s an extremely valuable farm that’s worth almost a million dollars on the books,” Bard said. “The estate without the farm is close to insolvent.”
But the society’s attorney, Pat Neaton, said there’s no evidence that Ward Holasek did not understand fully what he was doing, and that until his death he continued to discuss the next stage of restoring the historic barn.
Much of the dispute has now landed in probate court, where it is likely to take months to resolve. An initial hearing on Tuesday dealt with the process of finding an independent personal representative to administer the estate.
Petersen-Biorn said the society learned two days after Holasek’s death that it will receive another state grant for long-range planning, and the issue of access needs to be resolved. She hopes the parties find common ground, and ultimately that the society can own more buildings on the sons’ land, and the family can receive more of the farm land.
“I hope this can lead to what Ward wanted for the community, and I’m hoping it won’t take too many years to get there,” she said.
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388