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Schober v. Schober

Court of Appeal of Iowa

August 21, 2013

BETTY L. SCHOBER, Intervenor-Appellee,
v.
CAROL S. SCHOBER, Fiduciary of the ESTATE OF WILLIAM R. SCHOBER, Executor-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Floyd County, James M. Drew, Judge.

An executor appeals from a district court order allowing a claim in probate against an estate for past and future alimony.

Russell Schroeder Jr. of Schroeder Law Office, Charles City, for appellant.

Thais Ann Folta of Elwood, O'Donohoe, Braun & White, L.L.P., Cresco, for appellee.

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

VAITHESWARAN, J.

Betty Schober was awarded alimony for her lifetime, to continue after her ex-spouse William's death. She successfully enforced that claim in probate. On appeal, we are asked to decide whether William's post-death alimony obligation should have been "offset" by social security benefits paid to Betty "as a direct result" of William's death. For reasons, set forth below, we do not reach the issue.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

William and Betty Schober married in 1955 and divorced in 1981. The district court ordered William to pay Betty alimony of $1100 per month. The court further provided: "Said alimony payments shall be terminated by the death or remarriage of [Betty]. In the event of the death of [William] while his alimony obligation is continuing, the unmatured alimony obligation herein for the remaining lifetime of [Betty] shall constitute a lien and claim against William's estate." This court affirmed the provisions of the decree without opinion in In re Marriage of Schober, No. 2-66951, 325 N.W.2d 417 (Iowa Ct. App. May 25, 1982).

William later married Carol Schober. He died in 2010. Betty did not remarry. She testified by deposition that William paid her alimony until his death. She stated that, while he sometimes got behind in his payments, he was current as of his death.

Carol filed a petition to probate William's will. Following delayed notification of the probate proceeding, [1] Betty filed a claim seeking $18, 700 in alimony that was due and owing after William's death, together with $1100 per month going forward. At a hearing on the claim, the estate presented evidence of social security benefits Betty received before and after William's death. The estate sought an offset of the post-death benefit amount against the alimony obligation.

The district court first concluded that, "[g]iven the clear, albeit unusual, alimony provision in the dissolution decree . . . the estate is obligated to continue making the payments to Betty." The court then proceeded to the estate's argument in favor of an offset. The court ruled as follows:

The estate argues that the payment amount should be reduced because a "credit" should be allowed for the increase in Bettys social security benefits resulting from Mr. Schober's death. Although there are child support cases that support the estate's argument, there are no such cases involving alimony. It is important to note that the pertinent child support cases were modification actions. It is possible that a similar rule would apply to the type of alimony award involved in this case. However, if it does it must be addressed in an action for modification within the dissolution action.

The court allowed Betty's claim and ordered it paid by the estate. This appeal followed the denial of Carol 's motion for ...


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