Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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In this will contest, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the unsuccessful will contestant’s motion to amend the pleadings to conform to the proof at the close of his case. The contestant’s motion at issue sought to broaden the contestant’s undue influence claim to include all of the testator’s prior wills and codicils. The Supreme Court held that the last-minute amendment would have broadened the issues and the proof. In addition, this issue fell within precedent upholding denials of motions to amend under Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.457 when the motion is based on facts the movant knew or should have known before trial. As to the contestant’s other issue asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling on burden of proof that was incorporated within a pretrial order denying summary judgment, this issue was not preserved for review. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "In re Estate of Margaret E. Workman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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David Steinberg and Steven Steinberg, brothers and the sole beneficiaries of the Steinberg Family Living Trust, requested a declaration of how a Minnesota farm and an Iowa farm should be distributed. The Minnesota farm, which was part of the trust, was acquired after the creation of the trust through a like-kind tax exchange of property. The exchanged property was specifically bequeathed to Steven but the acquired farm was not specifically bequeathed to either beneficiary. The district court ordered the Minnesota farm to be distributed equally between the brothers, concluding that the specific bequest was adeemed because the bequeathed parcel of land was no longer an asset of the trust and there was no exception to the doctrine of ademption for the like-kind tax exchange of property. The court also struck a provision of the trust granting Steven the option to purchase the Iowa farm from David. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the district court’s decision to the extent the court declared the specific bequest to Steven was adeemed and concluded that the Minnesota farm was to be distributed equally between the brothers; and (2) reversed the decision to the extent it granted summary judgment to David on the disputed trust provision due to genuine issues of material fact. View "Steinberg v. Steinberg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Joseph Gantner died in 2015, survived by his wife, Rachel Gantner, and two daughters, Meredith and Paige Gantner. After Joseph’s will was admitted to probate, Rachel filed for an elective share of Joseph’s estate and also requested a spousal support allowance. Meredith and Paige resisted Rachel’s application for spousal support, maintaining that several individual retirement accounts (IRAs) did not constitute part of the probate estate and, therefore, were beyond the reach of Rachel’s spousal allowance. As relevant to this appeal, Rachel was not a beneficiary of those IRAs. Rather, the executor confirmed that Meredith and Paige were their cobeneficaries. The probate court denied Rachel’s application for spousal allowance, concluding that the IRAs could not be used to pay an allowance to Rachel, who was not a beneficiary of those IRAs. Rachel appealed, arguing that she may reach the IRAs because they were “a transfer at death of a security registered in beneficiary form” under Iowa Code 633D.8. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 633D does not apply to an IRA where one or more nonspouses are designated the beneficiaries. View "In re Estate of Joseph C. Gantner III" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Testator executed a last will and testament devising property to her adult son and daughter. After the will was executed but before Testator’s death, Son was adopted by his paternal aunt. After Testator’s death, Daughter filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment establishing that the adoption terminated Son’s ability to inherit under Mother’s will, which identified him as a beneficiary both by name and by membership in a class. The district court concluded that Son’s adoption out of his biological family did not preclude him from taking under Mother’s will. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the testamentary gift to Son as a named beneficiary and as a member of a class did not fail because of his adoption as an adult after Testator executed her will. View "Roll v. Newhall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The administrators of Decedent’s estate listed residential real estate for sale. Decedent’s common law spouse objected to the proposed sale, claiming it was her marital home. The district court recognized the surviving spouses’s common law rights but nonetheless approved the sale. The buyers took possession and made improvements to the home. Thereafter, the court of appeals reversed and remanded for consideration of the homestead interest of the spouse. On remand, the district court gave the surviving spouse the option of taking possession of the home upon paying the buyers a substantial part of the cost of their improvements to the home or receiving the proceeds from the estate’s sale of the real estate. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the surviving spouse could retake possession upon payment of the approximate value of the home before the improvements were made less any credit to which she was entitled from the buyers for rent during the period the spouse had been dispossessed; and (2) the spouse could transfer title to the buyers and receive the proceeds from the estate’s sale of the home plus credit for rent from the date of the conveyance to the buyers until the date of judgment. View "In re Estate of Waterman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 1991, Husband and Wife were married in Florida. Later that year, the couple signed a postnuptial agreement expressly providing that Florida law would apply. The agreement contained a provision stating that Wife waived all claims against Husband’s estate upon his death, including her elective share. In 2005, the couple moved to Iowa. After Husband died in 2012, Wife claimed her spousal elective share under Iowa law. The agreement was enforceable under Florida law, but Wife argued that the agreement could not be enforced in Iowa because it would violate Iowa’s public policy against postnuptial agreements waiving a spouse’s elective share. The district court denied relief based on the choice of law provision in the agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Florida law applied to the enforceability of Wife’s waiver of her spousal elective share contained in the agreement. View "Hussemann v. Hussemann " on Justia Law

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Elmer Gaede, who owned a 120-acre farm together with his wife, died testate on February 2005. Elmer’s daughter, Diean, was named executor under the will. Diean designated Ivan Ackerman to render legal services in the administration of the estate. During the pendency of the probate proceedings, Elmer’s son James and his wife, who were leasing the farm, exercised the option under the lease agreement to purchase the farm. Diean later filed this legal malpractice lawsuit against Ackerman, alleging that Ackerman failed to adequately protect her personal interests relating to the enforceability of the option. The district court granted summary judgment for Ackerman, determining that Ackerman did not have a duty to protect Diean’s personal interests. The court of appeals reversed, holding that a factual dispute existed over the question of whether Diean had a reasonable expectation that Ackerman was representing her personal interests. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that insufficient facts supported Diean’s claim that Ackerman reasonably understood that Diean expected him to protect her personal interests in challenging the option. View "Sabin v. Ackerman" on Justia Law

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Arnold and Vesta Melby were trustors of separate irrevocable trusts. Both Arnold and Vesta received Medicaid benefits. After the Melbys’ deaths, the Iowa Department of Human Services notified Arnold’s estate that it would seek reimbursement for all Medicaid expenses it had paid on behalf of Arnold and Vesta. The Department then filed an application in the estate seeking a judgment declaring the Melbys had interests in the corpus of their trusts that should be counted as assets available for repayment of the Department’s Medicaid claim. The district court concluded (1) the Melbys’ interests in the trusts were limited to their right to receive the net income from the trusts’ assets, and (2) the Department’s right to recover the Medicaid payments could be enforced against such income, but not against the corpus of the trusts. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Department’s right to recover Medicaid payments under the facts of this case extended beyond the Melbys’ net income interests; and (2) the district court erred in determining the scope of medical assistance for which recovery was authorized by the general assembly. Remanded. View "In re Estate of Melby" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a financial advisor to Decedent, was sued by identified beneficiaries of Decedent’s signed written estate plan. The beneficiaries alleged that Defendant was negligent in the performance of his duties, and therefore, the beneficiaries did not receive what they were supposed to receive under the plan. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that Defendant, a non-attorney, owed no duty to the beneficiaries. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the judgment entered against plaintiff Steve Bristol and his spouse, holding that Bristol was owed a duty by Defendant and that Bristol raised a genuine of material fact as to whether Defendant’s negligent performance of his agency responsibilities caused Bristol not to receive a specific devise set forth in Decedent’s will; and (2) affirmed the judgment with respect to the charitable recipient plaintiffs, as their damages were too speculative to establish damages. View "St. Malachy Roman Catholic Congregation of Geneseo, Ill. v. Ingram" on Justia Law

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The parties in this case, William and Steven Burkhalter, were the sons of Louis Burkhalter. William challenged an unfavorable modification of Louis's revocable trust that occurred just before Louis's death, claiming (1) Steven unduly influenced Louis and tortiously interfered with the trust, and (2) Louis lacked the necessary testamentary intent when he made the modification. The district court directed a verdict for Steven on the tortious interference claim, and the jury returned a verdict for Steven on the testamentary capacity and undue influence claims. The court of appeals remanded the case for a new trial on the undue influence claim, concluding that the district court erroneously instructed the jury on undue influence, and the error prejudiced William. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and reinstated the jury verdict on the undue influence claim, holding that the district court's instruction accurately reflected the law of undue influence and did not unduly emphasize the causation element of the undue influence claim. View "Burkhalter v. Burkhalter" on Justia Law