Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of a beneficiary and ruling that an amendment to an irrevocable trust was invalid, holding that the surviving settlor of an irrevocable trust cannot, with the consent of all of the beneficiaries, modify the dispositive terms of an irrevocable trust without court approval.Donald and Collen Davis established the trust at issue. After Collen died, Donald sought to amend the dispositive terms of the trust. Donald and his four children signed a consent document on different days and then Donald executed an amendment altering the disposition of the trust estate. Katina Little, one of the children, brought this action challenging the validity of the amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for Little, concluding that the amendment to the trust agreement was void for lack of authority. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the consent of Donald and the four beneficiaries was insufficient to modify the trust after Collen's death. View "Little v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the beneficiary of an estate cannot file a separate suit outside probate against the personal representative of the estate for claims arising out of and related to the personal representative's fees for administering the estate.After Roger Rand died testate, attorney Larry Storm informed Security National Bank that it had been nominated as the personal representative of the estate. Plaintiff, a beneficiary of the estate, later received a document entitled "Estate Administration Overview" that included a statement regarding fees for the estate's administration. The document reflected the maximum fees for ordinary services that a personal representative could receive. Plaintiff objected, arguing that Security National deprived the beneficiaries of the opportunity to replace the personal representative with another that required a smaller fee. The probate court reduced the fees to Security National below the requested amounts. Plaintiff then brought this suit against Security National arising from Security National's service as the personal representative of the estate. The district court held that Plaintiff's claims should have been asserted in the probate court or otherwise failed as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Security National on all claims. View "Rand v. Security National Corp." on Justia Law

by
In this lawsuit to set aside a will the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court for Plaintiffs on their undue influence claim and dismissing their tortious interference with inheritance claim, holding that there was no error.Shortly after the decedent died, Plaintiffs brought this action seeking to set aside the decedent's will. Their petition alleged several causes of action against Defendants, including undue influence and tortious interference with inheritance. The district court dismissed the tortious interference with inheritance claim. Later, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs on the undue influence claim. Both sides appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly held that Plaintiffs needed to prove Defendants' knowledge of Plaintiffs' expectancy of an inheritance from the decedent; and (2) the district court did not admit improper hearsay evidence, and Plaintiffs' lawyer did not make prejudicial statements during closing argument. View "Buboltz v. Birusingh" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming a probate court ruling that a restriction on the transfer of devise property was a restraint on alienation and void, holding that the provision was a prohibited restraint on alienation and void.The testamentary provision in this case restricted the beneficiaries from selling or transferring the devised property outside their immediate family for a period of twenty years following the testator's death. The district court ultimately held that the restriction on the property was an invalid restraint on alienation and void. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the restriction was a restraint on alienation and that reasonable restraints on alienation are not allowed under Iowa law. View "Estate of Vera E. Cawiezell v. Coronelli" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the ruling of the district court finding that an amended pleading by the Estate of Francis O. Glaser related back to its original pleading and therefore permitted an additional conveyance to be set aside after the statute of limitations had lapsed, holding that the district court erred in concluding that the late amendment related back to the date of the original motion.The Estate in this case attempted to void a predate transfer of farm property by Glaser to a friend. In order to do so, at the close of the evidence, the Estate filed a motion to amend the original motion to set aside property conveyances that failed to mention the farm property. The district court permitted the late amendment and found that the amendment related back to the filing of the original motion. Therefore, the court concluded that the claim was not barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the challenged conveyances should be set aside. The Supreme Court held, like the court of appeals, that the late claim to set aside the farm property was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. View "Kindsfather v. Bowling" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court on declaratory judgment declining to adjudicate the validity of two wills the ward, who was still alive, executed while he was in a voluntary conservatorship, holding that neither Iowa Code 633.637 nor other provisions of the Probate Code permit a challenge to the validity of a will executed by a testator who is still living.The ward's sister and her husband (together, Petitioners) brought this action to determine the validity of the ward's two wills. The conservator bank moved to dismiss the action, arguing that Petitioners lacked standing to challenge the wills while the testator was still alive. The district court denied the motion to dismiss but limited the scope of the action to a determination of the ward's present testamentary capacity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) will contests must await the testator's death, and the Probate Code does not allow this declaratory judgment action to proceed; and (2) the district court erred by ordering Petitioners to pay the conservator's attorney fees without an applicable fee-shifting statute. View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Radda" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in favor of Plaintiff in this will contest, holding that a claim alleging that the decedent's will resulted from tortious interference by a beneficiary must be joined with a timely will contest and otherwise is barred.Mother and Father died within one day of each other, and their 2014 mirror wills were probated. Plaintiff decided to forgo a timely contest to Mother's will but then later brought a suit for tortious interference against a Beneficiary of the will, arguing that the Beneficiary exercised improper and undue influence over Mother. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the common law and principles of claim preclusion do not permit a tortious interference with inheritance claim alleging an improperly obtained will to go forward outside normal probate deadlines and proceedings; and (2) Plaintiff's tortious interference claim was a de facto substitute for a will contest based on undue influence and was thus barred because it was not brought in conjunction with a timely will contest. View "Youngblut v. Youngblut" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court ruling that Plaintiffs' claim seeking contract damages was barred by the limitations period set forth in Iowa Code 614.17A, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment.John and Dessie Rottinghaus filed a claim in the Estate of Sandra Franken, alleging that the Estate sold certain real estate in violation of their right of first refusal to purchase the real estate. The executor disallowed the claim and moved for summary judgment, claiming that section 614.17A barred the Rottinghauses' claim. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment, concluding that the statute of limitations precluded the Rottinghauses' claim for damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 614.17A applies only to actions seeking to recover or establish an interest in or claim to real estate filed against the holder of the record title; and (2) neither the merger doctrine, the statute of frauds, the indirect effect of section 614.17A, nor the statute of limitations in section 614.1(5) barred the Rottinghauses' damages action. View "In re Estate of Franken" on Justia Law

by
In this intrafamily dispute regarding farmland the Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the district court denying substitute petitioners' petition for relief from elder abuse specifically seeking relief for the loss associated with certain real estate transactions, holding that the substitute petitioners failed to prove that their father was a vulnerable elder at the time of the challenged transactions.The substitute petitioners for their father filed this petition pursuant to Iowa Code 235F alleging that their brother and his son committed elder abuse against their father by unduly influencing the father to enter into below-mark-rate lease agreements to farm the father's land, to gift some of the land to the brother and his son, and to write a new will to reflect the gifted land. The district court concluded that the substitute petitioners failed to establish that their father was a "vulnerable elder" subject to "financial exploitation" within the meaning of chapter 235F. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the substitute petitioners filed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their father was vulnerable elder at the time of the challenged transactions. View "Struve v. Struve" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's denial of Defendant's motion for summary judgment, reversed the decision of the district court, and remanded to the district court for entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that Plaintiffs' action was untimely.Plaintiffs, two beneficiaries of a trust, filed an action asking the district court to resolve a dispute with Defendant concerning the valuation date of the trust. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiffs' action was untimely and the terms of the trust clearly provided the valuation date. The district court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the denial of summary judgment, holding that Plaintiffs failed timely to commence their action, and therefore, their claims were barred under Iowa Code 633A.4504. View "Konrardy v. Vincent Angerer Trust" on Justia Law