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In re Estate of Anton

Iowa Supreme Court
731 N.W.2d 19 (2007)


Facts

Hestor Mary Lewis Anton (Mary) drafted a will leaving a half interest in her duplex and the property on which it was situated (the Duplex) to her stepdaughter, Gretchen Coy (plaintiff), and the other half interest to her son, Robert Lewis (defendant), who, along with his sister, Nancy Ezarski (defendant), stood to inherit the rest of their mother’s estate. Due to injuries sustained in a serious car accident that occurred after she executed her will, Mary had to enter a nursing home and around the same time she executed a durable power of attorney giving her daughter Nancy full control over her finances. Mary eventually moved into Green Hills Health Center (Green Hills) where she had a private suite and wanted to be able to remain. When Nancy tried to discuss with Mary the need to sell assets to allow her to remain at Green Hills, the staff told her to refrain from discussing financial affairs with her mother because it exacerbated her medical condition. For this reason, Nancy began selling assets and Mary was only generally aware that her assets were being sold so that she could remain at Green Hills. When Mary’s income from her husband’s trust and the Duplex was insufficient to meet her expenses, and the Duplex was the only remaining asset that could be sold, Nancy listed the Duplex for sale without telling Mary. Gretchen’s son asked her to take it off the market, which she did, but after consulting an attorney and unsuccessfully attempting to access the principal in the trust, Nancy sold the Duplex without telling Mary, believing it was the only option in order to pay her mother’s expenses. After Mary died, Gretchen sought to recover the proceeds of the sale of the Duplex. Of the $133,263 in proceeds from sale of the Duplex, $104,317.38 remained at the time of Mary’s death and testimony offered at trial was unclear as to Mary’s state of mind, but indicated possible advanced dementia. The case was ultimately appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

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Holding and Reasoning (Appel, J.)

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