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In the Matter of the Estate

April 24, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF CARROLL IRVING SAMPSON, DECEASED. CHERYL ANN MURKEN AND MARY ANN SMITH, CO-EXECUTORS OF THE CHRISTINE ROSILIA SAMPSON ESTATE, APPELLANTS.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, James C. Ellefson, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tabor, J.

The executors of Christine Sampson's estate appeal the probate court's order denying their motion for summary judgment that alleged an action by family members to reopen Carroll Sampson's estate was time barred. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

The question in this appeal is whether a petition to reopen Carroll Sampson's estate, filed seventeen years after it was closed, should be dismissed as untimely under Iowa Code section 633.488 (2011). Finding the action to reopen arises under section 633.489, which places no limitation on the time for filing, we affirm the probate court's order denying summary judgment.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Carroll Sampson died on July 29, 1993. He was survived by his wife,

Christine. They did not have any children. In article two of his will, Carroll stated:

I give any automobiles, household furniture or furnishings, silverware, china, crystal, books, wearing apparel and other tangible personal effects owned by me at my death to Spouse, if she survives me for a period of thirty days. I give the residue of my estate to Spouse, if she survives me for thirty days.

In article three of the will, Carroll gave Zion Lutheran Church of Radcliffe "the sum of $500." In article four, Carroll stated: "The rest residue and reminder of my estate I divide into fifteen equal parcels" to be divided among his siblings and Christine's siblings, or the children of those siblings. Nothing in the will explains the relationship between the residuary clauses in articles two and four.

The main asset of Carroll's estate was an undivided one-half interest in two parcels of real estate comprising about 200 acres of farmland in Hardin County. Carroll owned this real estate with Christine as tenants in common. At the time of Carroll's death, the property was valued at approximately $1800 per acre.

Christine survived her husband for more than thirty days and acted as the executor of his estate. Although they were aware of Carroll's death, notice of the probate proceedings was not given to the residuary beneficiaries identified in article four of the will. The final report was filed on December 30, 1992, but did not contain the name and place of residence of each of the devisees and their relationship to Carroll as required by Iowa Code section 633.477(5) (1993). The estate was closed on January 3, 1994, and all of the assets identified in the estate passed to Christine.

Initially Christine's will mirrored Carroll's will. But in 2006 Christine changed her will to remove the beneficiaries listed in article four. She devised the real estate she and Carroll had owned as tenants in common to charity. Christine died on March 1, 2011, and her estate was admitted to probate.

Family members were under the impression that Christine received a life estate with respect to the farmland. They expected Christine would live off the income generated by the real estate, and at her death, it would pass to them. When Christine died, they learned they were to receive nothing. Family members allege they did not discover Carroll's will until after Christine's death.

On July 28, 2011, the relatives identified as residual beneficiaries in Carroll's will, and their successors in interest, filed a petition to reopen his estate pursuant to section 633.489 to determine their interests. In their answer, the executors of Christine's estate argued the court did not have jurisdiction to reopen Carroll's estate because more than seventeen years had elapsed since it ...


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