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Judge corrects previous order, says non-NMD spouse cannot inherit land

IN an order granting a motion to reconsider, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho said a widower who is not of Northern Marianas descent cannot inherit the land of his decedent NMD wife who has NMD children.

Since decedent Elphidia Dela Cruz Nauta is survived by children who are NMDs and thus able to own land in the Commonwealth, the spouse, William A. Nauta Sr., who is a person of non-NMD, cannot acquire an interest in her Koblerville and Chalan Piao properties, the judge added.

Upon a finding of clear error, he said he must grant the motion for reconsideration filed by Kenneth D.L.C. Nauta, one of the decedent’s three sons.

 Elphidia Dela Cruz Nauta’s other sons are William Nauta Jr. and  John Nauta who are also NMDs like their mother.

 Kenneth, through attorney Brien Sers Nicholas, filed a motion asking the Superior Court to reconsider two prior orders relating to property in the decedent’s estate.

 The first prior order pertains to the decedent’s property in Koblerville, while the second order is for the decedent’s properties in Chalan Piao.

Judge Camacho previously held that William Sr., as the surviving non-NMD spouse, may inherit a portion of a lot in Koblerville.

He ordered that  William Sr. was to get an undivided one-half share of the property,  but for no longer than 55 years, with the vested remainder in fee simple going to William Jr., Kenneth and John, in equal and undivided shares.

Judge Camacho also found that Willam Sr. could inherit an interest in two lots in Chalan Piao.

In Kenneth’s motion for reconsideration, his  counsel, Brien Sers Nicholas, said allowing William Sr. to take any property interest in the Koblerville and Chalan Piao properties is both a clear error and a manifest injustice.

In his recent order, the judge admitted that his prior ruling was in clear error.

He said in his prior order, he looked for guidance to the CNMI Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2009 case involving the Estate of Tudela.

 Camacho said under Tudela, in a “typical situation, when a decedent leaves a spouse, he will also leave issue, and each will take half.”

 Although the Tudela case provides for a non-NMD surviving spouse to inherit property in the CNMI, the judge said  the decedent in Tudela did not have children who could inherit land in the Commonwealth.

Judge Camacho said the Nauta case is different from the Tudela case in that decedent Elpidia has children who are NMDs and can inherit land.

 He said the court’s reliance upon Tudela under these circumstances was misplaced.