Suit questions sale of dead man’s land (OH)

CANTON — One year before he died, Deacon Wilbert Coleman agreed to sell his family’s homestead, a 30-acre plot in Belmont County.

But Coleman’s mental state when the sale occurred and the $1,250 price has prompted questions from relatives and the administrator of Coleman’s estate.

Coleman’s estate last week filed a lawsuit in Stark County Common Pleas Court trying to regain possession of the land and collect any payments the buyers received when they leased mineral rights for the property to XTO Energy. The estate also wants the court to void a lease with XTO Energy.

The lawsuit questions whether Coleman — because Stark County Probate Court had declared him incompetent in 2009 — understood what he was doing when he agreed to sell the land in 2011. There also is no record that he received the $1,250 noted in the sale.

As for the Coleman homestead, held by the family for more than 60 years, the lawsuit suggests the land was worth $130,000.

‘DEACON’ COLEMAN

Coleman was 82 when he died March 27 after living for several years at a nursing home in Jackson Township. In July 2009 probate court hearing, Coleman was declared incompetent and assigned a guardian to handle his affairs. According to the lawsuit, Coleman suffered from dementia.

Coleman’s family moved to Belmont County from West Virginia when he was a child. He played football for St. Clairsville High School. In 1951 he joined the Army and served during the Korean War. A year later, he moved to Canton and went to work at Timken Co.

While living in Canton, Coleman became a faithful member of Mount Olive Baptist Church. He severed as Sunday school superintendent, was a member of the deacon board and became president of the Stark County Deacon’s Prayer Band. Many in the church community knew his as “Deacon” Coleman.

SALE QUESTIONED

Coleman’s parents — James and Addie Coleman — remained in Belmont County. Records show they acquired land in 1947. Addie died in 1977 and James died in 1985. Neither had a will. Deacon Coleman — one of the couple’s 11 children — became owner of the homestead.

Coleman didn’t have a will when he died. After his death, a niece and a nephew asked about the Belmont County property, according to probate court records. That’s when the court learned the land was sold.

According to the lawsuit, Belmont County residents William and Suzanne Beckett approached Coleman about buying the land. Coleman signed a general warranty deed on April 1, 2011, and it was recorded a few days later. In May 2011, the Becketts followed up by requesting quiet title that secured the property for them, the complaint said.

In September the couple combined the 30 acres with other property and signed a mineral rights lease with XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobile, the lawsuit said.

XTO Energy has permits for three wells in Belmont County, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources records. The property the Becketts leased appears to be several miles away from those sites.

Lawyers for Coleman’s estate declined to discuss the lawsuit. The Becketts and XTO Energy still haven’t responded to the complaint. The case has been assigned to Common Pleas Judge Lee Sinclair.

One year before he died, Deacon Wilbert Coleman agreed to sell his family’s homestead, a 30-acre plot in Belmont County.

But Coleman’s mental state when the sale occurred and the $1,250 price has prompted questions from relatives and the administrator of Coleman’s estate.

Coleman’s estate last week filed a lawsuit in Stark County Common Pleas Court trying to regain possession of the land and collect any payments the buyers received when they leased mineral rights for the property to XTO Energy. The estate also wants the court to void a lease with XTO Energy.

The lawsuit questions whether Coleman — because Stark County Probate Court had declared him incompetent in 2009 — understood what he was doing when he agreed to sell the land in 2011. There also is no record that he received the $1,250 noted in the sale.

As for the Coleman homestead, held by the family for more than 60 years, the lawsuit suggests the land was worth $130,000.

‘DEACON’ COLEMAN

Coleman was 82 when he died March 27 after living for several years at a nursing home in Jackson Township. In July 2009 probate court hearing, Coleman was declared incompetent and assigned a guardian to handle his affairs. According to the lawsuit, Coleman suffered from dementia.

Coleman’s family moved to Belmont County from West Virginia when he was a child. He played football for St. Clairsville High School. In 1951 he joined the Army and served during the Korean War. A year later, he moved to Canton and went to work at Timken Co.

While living in Canton, Coleman became a faithful member of Mount Olive Baptist Church. He severed as Sunday school superintendent, was a member of the deacon board and became president of the Stark County Deacon’s Prayer Band. Many in the church community knew his as “Deacon” Coleman.

SALE QUESTIONED

Coleman’s parents — James and Addie Coleman — remained in Belmont County. Records show they acquired land in 1947. Addie died in 1977 and James died in 1985. Neither had a will. Deacon Coleman — one of the couple’s 11 children — became owner of the homestead.

Coleman didn’t have a will when he died. After his death, a niece and a nephew asked about the Belmont County property, according to probate court records. That’s when the court learned the land was sold.

According to the lawsuit, Belmont County residents William and Suzanne Beckett approached Coleman about buying the land. Coleman signed a general warranty deed on April 1, 2011, and it was recorded a few days later. In May 2011, the Becketts followed up by requesting quiet title that secured the property for them, the complaint said.

In September the couple combined the 30 acres with other property and signed a mineral rights lease with XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobile, the lawsuit said.

XTO Energy has permits for three wells in Belmont County, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources records. The property the Becketts leased appears to be several miles away from those sites.

Lawyers for Coleman’s estate declined to discuss the lawsuit. The Becketts and XTO Energy still haven’t responded to the complaint. The case has been assigned to Common Pleas Judge Lee Sinclair.

Attribution:

Suit questions sale of dead man’s land
Edd Pritchard
August 24, 2012
CantonRep.com
http://www.cantonrep.com/news/x1333906866/Suit-questions-sale-of-dead-mans-land

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