In a first-ever case, S.D. Supreme Court finds that three heirs wrongly excluded the fourth

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Court Gavel

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Three adult children shouldn’t have presented themselves as the only heirs of an Aberdeen man after his death, the South Dakota Supreme Court has found.

The justices ruled in favor of a fourth adult child, who met but hadn’t lived with his father. The other three children vaguely knew about him from their father, but none of the three children met the fourth until after the father’s death

Justice Patricia DeVaney wrote the unanimous decision that was publicly released Thursday. The justices directed that the case be returned to circuit court for further action.

The case marked the first time that the state’s Supreme Court examined whether the phrase “discovery of the fraud” in a state law includes both actual and constructive notice of the fraud.

The father, Edward P. Bickel, had an estate worth about $2 million, most of it in land, at the time of his 2014 death.

Normally under South Dakota law, a claim to an estate must be made within three years of the death or within one year after distribution.

But in this instance, Justice DeVaney said, the fourth child wasn’t aware of the father’s death until August 2018 and didn’t learn of the probate of the estate until approximately November 2018. She wrote:

“We need not determine at what point Clifford had knowledge of sufficient facts to
put him on constructive notice of a possible fraud because there is no dispute
Clifford commenced his fraud action within two years of the date he learned of
Edward’s death. This date was the earliest point in time in which Clifford could
conceivably be charged with constructive notice that Edward’s estate had been
distributed in a fraudulent manner.”

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