IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF CORY JAY TIMM, Deceased SUSAN TIMM, Intervenor-Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Boone County, Steven J. Oeth, Judge.
The decedent's mother challenges the probate court's ruling on the estate's homestead exemption.
Michael G. Byrne of Winston & Byrne, P.C., Mason City, for appellant.
Thomas J. Houser and Jana M. Luttenegger of Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, P.C., West Des Moines, for estate. Krystle L. Campa, Des Moines, for appellees.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
This appeal turns on the question whether Cory Timm's property in Boone County qualified under Iowa Code section 561.1 (2011) as his homestead, exempt from claims of creditors and the costs of administering his estate. This homestead dispute pits Cory's mother, Susan Timm, against Linnzi Keller, the mother of Cory's sole heir and the co-administrator of Cory's intestate estate. The probate court sided with the estate, applying the homestead exemption. Susan pursues this challenge in her effort to be reimbursed for her son's burial and other expenses.
Because the evidence established Cory's occupancy of the house while he fixed it up for his mother, and the record does not show he abandoned his homestead interest while he traveled for his work, we affirm the probate court.
I. Facts and Prior Proceedings
Cory Timm worked as an itinerant hail repair specialist, crisscrossing the country in a Springdale travel trailer to locations hit by heavy weather. His mother Susan described him as a "vagabond" who "went from here to there and that was the way he lived, and the way he made his living." In the winter months, Cory sometimes stayed with his mother in Mesa, Arizona,  and sometimes lived in his trailer in Texas or other clement locations.
In April 2005, Cory bought 9.46 acres in Boone County for a price of $105, 000. The real estate, located at 1322 Moingona Road, was titled in Cory's name. That spring, according to Susan's testimony, Cory lived in the house for a few months before traveling to her place in Arizona. Although the house was "livable, " Cory "gutted the bathroom to make a spa" which was never completed. Susan recalled Cory encouraging her to move to Boone, saying: "Let's go, we're going back to – your house is there. I am never there."
For taxing purposes Cory's property consisted of four parcels. Cory sought and received a homestead tax credit on one of the parcels. But when asked who resided at the Boone property in 2006, Susan responded "Cory very rarely was there." She testified she came back there in the summers and occupied the house with her grandchildren.
In early 2008, Cory was physically present at the Boone property as he prepared the house for his mother to move in. In May 2008, Susan sold her mobile home in Arizona and relocated to the Boone residence. Susan said Cory helped her "get settled" after the move. Cory retained ownership of the Boone property and Susan did not pay him rent. But while she lived in the three-bedroom house, Susan paid all the utilities, taxes, and upkeep from a bank account she held jointly with Cory. According to Susan's affidavit Cory "stored extra stuff" in the house and purchased a bed for the guest bedroom. Cory also arranged for a neighbor in Boone to cut the grass at the house.
Cory died from a ruptured aneurysm in February 2009 at the age of thirty-six. His death occurred while he was staying at a trailer park in Albuquerque, but the New Mexico Certificate of Death listed his residence as Boone County, Iowa. Cory's family arranged for his body to be returned to Iowa, where Susan arranged a ...