Recent Judgment on Will Challenges During Lifetime

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On January 21, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of In The Matter of the Guardianship and Conservatorship of Vernon D. Radda v. Washington State Bank, as Conservator for Vernon D. Radda.  The issue in the case was whether a prospective heir can bring a declaratory judgment action under Section 633.637 (2019) of the Iowa Code, to determine the validity of wills before the testator dies.  The Ward executed wills in 1992 and 2015 while he was under a voluntary Conservatorship and without any judicial determination of his testamentary capacity.  The sister of the Ward

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Can Deathbed Instructions Amend a Trust?

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On October 7, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a Ruling in the matter of the Sandahl Trust (2017).  Craig Sandahl executed the Sandahl Trust which was a Revocable Grantor Trust in 1993.  The Trust was funded with substantially all of Craig Sandahl’s assets.  The Trust was last restated by a document dated August 14, 2017, which was two months before Craig Sandahl passed away. The Trust distributed assets to two groups of recipients.  One group was the “Descendant’s Trust” of which Craig’s children’s lineal descendants were the beneficiaries and the other group was given to the Community Foundation

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Navigating Probate Cases with Joint Tenancy Bank Accounts

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It is not unusual in probating an estate to find that the decedent’s checking account is held in joint tenancy with one of the decedent’s children. The joint account was usually set up to allow said child to pay the bills of the decedent. The question that arises is whether the funds in said account pass to said child at the time of death due to the joint tenancy ownership of the account. In many cases, said child does not want the account to be transferred to the child and would prefer that the funds be divided among all of

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Final Regulations on Deductibility of Expenses of Estates and Non-Grantor Trusts

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On September 21, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service issued final regulations in regard to the deductibility of expenses of estates and non-grantor trusts.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which was passed previously, bars individuals from claiming miscellaneous itemized deductions for the years 2018 through 2025.  After the passage of the TCJA, there are questions on how such barred itemized deductions would impact estates and non-grantor trusts. The final regulations state that deductions for costs which were paid or incurred in connection with the administration of an estate or trust and which would not have been incurred if the

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New Iowa Supreme Court Case – Estate Planning & Statute of Limitations

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On June 12, 2020, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of In The Matter of the Estate of Sandra R. Franken, John E. Rottinghaus and Dessie Rottinghaus vs. Lincoln Savings Bank, Fiduciary of the Estate of Sandra R. Franken.  Said Ruling was amended on August 17, 2020. In 1973 the Rottinghauses sold real property of Dessie to Sandra and James Kipp, as joint tenants with full rights of survivorship.  The deed granted the Rottinghauses a first right of refusal which stated as follows: Grantees hereby agree that they will not sell or otherwise convey the premises

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Insights from a Recent Living Trust Case

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On July 22, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the matter of the Inman Family Living Trust (No. 19-1045).  Leland and Ella Mae Inman executed the Inman Family Living Trust in 2014.  In 2016, Leland passed away.  The Trust provided that the trustees possessed the powers, rights and discretion set forth in the Iowa Code; that the trustees are authorized to determine fairly and equitably the manner of ascertainment of income and principal and the allocation of all receipts and disbursements to income and principal accounts; and that the Trust shall be governed in accordance with

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Estate Planning in the Covid-19 Crisis

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Estate planning has changed dramatically during the Covid-19 crisis.  The majority of our clients are older individuals who are at a higher risk of being infected with the virus and who have an elevated risk of serious complications from the virus.  Many of our clients are concerned about contracting the virus and have reached out to us about their desires to update their estate planning documents as soon and safely as possible. The challenge facing all estate planning attorneys is how to safely perform estate planning for vulnerable clients in the Covid-19 environment.  From the middle of March to the

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New Iowa Supreme Court Probate Case – Harold Youngblut vs. Leonard Youngblut

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On June 12, 2020, the Supreme Court of Iowa issued a decision in the Harold Youngblut vs. Leonard Youngblut case.  The case involves two brothers, Harold and Leonard Youngblut.  Their parent were Earl and Agnes Youngblut.  Earl and Agnes were the parents of twelve children, three of whom predeceased them.  Earl and Agnes formed a corporation, Youngblut Farmland Ltd. in 1980 and transferred most of their farm assets into the corporation with the exception of farm ground in Tama County known as the “South Farm”.  Both Harold and Leonard worked for the corporation until Leonard left in 1988 over a

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Passage of the Secure Act & What it Means to You

On December 20, 2019, the President signed into law the Secure Act.  This article will focus on the key provisions of the new Act. The new Act changes the beginning age for taking required minimum distributions to age 72.  The new law applies to account owners who turn 70½ after the year 2019.  The new Act also repeals the prohibition on contributions to a traditional IRA by an individual who has attained the age of 70½.  Owners of traditional IRA’s can now make contributions past the age of 70½. The new Act also allows taxpayers to withdraw up to $5,000

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Mental Illness and Lack of Testamentary Capacity

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On September 25, 2019, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the Matter of the Estate of Freeman Adams.  Freeman Adams died in December 2016.  Dorothy Ruth Fisher, the sister of the decedent, petitioned in probate to open an intestate estate for the decedent.  Ms. Fisher acknowledged that the decedent executed a Last Will and Testament in 2011 and asserted that such document was invalid due to lack of testamentary capacity or the product of undue influence, or both.  Two beneficiaries of the Estate objected to Ms. Fisher’s petition. The facts of the case show that the decedent

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