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Estate of Wild v. Wild

Court of Appeal of Iowa

May 30, 2013

THE ESTATE OF GEORGE WILD, NICHOLE WILD, CHELSEA WILD, BREANNA WILD ATKINSON, TAMMY HICKLE, Conservator for RILEY WILD, A Minor, and THE ESTATE OF MILLARD F. WILD, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CHARLENE WILD, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Allamakee County, George L. Stigler, Judge.

         Plaintiffs appeal from the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of defendant.

          Dennis G. Larson of Larson Law Office, Decorah, and James A. Garrett of Jacobson Bristol Garrett & Swartz, Waukon, for appellants.

          W. Richard White of Morrow & White Law Office, Waukon, for appellee.

          Heard by Doyle, P.J., and Danilson and Mullins, JJ.

          DOYLE, J.

         The Estate of George Wild, Nichole Wild, Chelsea Wild, Breanna Wild Atkinson, Tammy Hicke, Conservator for Riley Wild, a minor, and the Estate of Millard F. Wild (collectively "the estate") appeal from the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Charlene Wild on the estate's petition to establish a constructive trust and to annul the marriage of Millard and Charlene. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the district court for further proceedings.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Millard Wild was born in 1921. He was married to Jean, who died in 2002. George Wild was the son of Millard and Jean. In 2006, Millard married Charlene. At the time of their marriage, Millard was eighty-five years old and Charlene was fifty-three years old. In 2008, Millard died testate. Millard's will appointed George his executor and left the majority of his assets, including three farms in Allamakee County, to George as residuary beneficiary.[1]

         In 2010, George died testate. George's will left his estate equally to his four children, Nichole Wild, Chelsea Wild, Breanna Wild, and Riley Wild. Following George's death, Nichole was appointed executrix of his estate. Breanna and Chelsea were appointed successor co-executrices of Millard's estate. Meanwhile, Charlene filed for the surviving spouse's elective share of Millard's estate. See Iowa Code § 633.238 (2011).

         In 2011, the estate filed this action seeking to impose a constructive trust on Charlene's assets and annul the marriage between Millard and Charlene. The estate's petition alleged in part that both before and during Millard and Charlene's marriage, Millard had "experienced declining health, " and Charlene, Millard's "housekeeper and caretaker, " "became the dominant influence of Millard" and "exercised undue influence and fraud upon Millard" to make inter vivos transfers of personal property "in excess of $500, 000" for her benefit. Charlene filed an answer denying the estate's claims and alleging in part that she was "not a housekeeper or caretaker" of Millard, Millard "was not in delicate health, " and Millard "managed his own accounts and business." Charlene further claimed Millard willed to her household contents "having little or no value, " and that she "subsequently gave the majority of the personal property to the children of Millard."

         Less than sixty days prior to the date set for trial, Charlene filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging in part that the estate had "no standing to contest the validity of the marriage." The estate resisted the motion, both on its merits and its delinquency.

         Following a hearing, the district court entered its ruling granting the motion for summary judgment. The court noted, "The motion is not timely, but because it disposes of the case [it] is ruled on." The court found, "[T]he plaintiffs are not real parties in interest and may not challenge the marriage of Millard F. Wild and ...


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