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Matkovich v. Matkovich

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 12, 2013

BILLY J. MATKOVICH and CAROL A. WARDLOW, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
JOHN D. MATKOVICH and CATHY L. MATKOVICH, Defendants-Appellees, and CATHY L. MATKOVICH, Individually, WES MATKOVICH, Individually, ANDY MATKOVICH, Individually, MICHELLE JONES, Individually, SEAN WARDLOW, Individually, JENNIE MATKOVICH, Individually, KIRK WARDLOW, Individually, CHAD WARDLOW, Individually, BILLY MATKOVICH, Individually and MARIJO ALLEN, Individually, Defendants. IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF JENNIE A. MATKOVICH, Deceased.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Appanoose County, James Q. Blomgren, Judge.

The plaintiffs appeal the district court order denying their action to set aside the will.

Gregory G. Milani of Orsborn, Milani, Mitchell & Goedken, L.L.P., Ottumwa, for appellants.

Steven Gardner of Denefe, Gardner & Zingg, P.C., Ottumwa, and John Martin, Bloomfield, for appellees.

Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Jennie Matkovich's two oldest children—Bill Matkovich and Carol Wardlow—objected to the probate of her will and petitioned to set it aside. They allege Jennie was mentally incompetent at the time the will was executed and the will was the result of undue influence by Jennie's youngest child, John Matkovich. Following trial, the district court denied the request to set aside the will. Bill and Carol appeal.

The evidence shows Jennie Matkovich had the appropriate mental capacity to understand her property and the nature of the will she executed on February 3, 2009, and she was not unduly influenced by John. As a result, the plaintiffs have failed to carry their burden, and we affirm the district court order denying their request to set aside the will.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Jennie Matkovich and her husband, William, owned approximately 280 acres of farmland in Appanoose County: 120 acres were known as "John's Place" and 160 acres were referred to as the "Home Place." When William died intestate in 1971, a one-half interest in the land passed to Jennie and an undivided one-half interest passed to Jennie's three children: Bill, Carol, and John. The following year, the children deeded this interest back to Jennie with the belief that Jennie's estate would later be divided between them.

In the wake of her husband's death, Jennie executed a will dated May 4, 1971. The will provided Jennie's only grandchild at the time would receive $2000, and the balance of the estate would be equally divided between Bill, Carol, and John.

In 1974, Jennie purchased an additional 160 acres of farmland. She borrowed $7000 from Carol to make the down payment, which was repaid.

After William's death, John ran Jennie's farm operation. For more than thirty years, John farmed Jennie's land with his equipment. John and Jennie split the annual crop expenses. Jennie determined when her share of the crop would be sold and for what price. Jennie also owned cattle, which John took care of. With Jennie's consent, John and his wife, Cathy, built a home on the 120-acre parcel known as "John's Place" and have lived on the land since.

On October 31, 1983, Jennie executed a codicil to her will, which devised $2000 to each of her eight grandchildren. It also bequeathed John's Place to John, subject to John surviving her. As provided in her will, the rest of ...


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