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In re Estate of Satter

Court of Appeal of Iowa

October 23, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF RICHARD P. SATTER, Deceased, Estate-Appellant,
v.
ROBERT G. SATTER, Claimant-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Christopher C. Foy, Judge.

An estate appeals from the judgment entered against it on a probate claim to enforce an oral agreement.

Charles H. Biebesheimer of Stillman Law Firm, Clear Lake, for appellant. Thomas E. Maxwell of Leff Law Firm, L.L.P., Iowa City, for appellee.

Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle, J., and Goodhue, S.J. [*]

GOODHUE, S.J.

Robert Satter filed a probate claim against Richard Satter's estate to enforce an oral agreement with the decedent. The district court entered judgment in favor of Robert in the sum of $82, 500 plus interest at the rate of 2.17% from January 20, 2010. The estate appeals.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

The decedent, Richard G. Satter (Rick), and the claimant, Robert G. Satter (Bob), were twin brothers and had no other siblings. They inherited an eighteen-acre tract with two houses on it in or near Clear Lake from their mother when she passed away December 22, 2004. Before her death Bob had moved into the larger house located on the acreage with his mother, and Rick was living in the smaller house. Rick and Bob inherited equal shares in their mother's estate and were co-executors. The eighteen-acre tract was the major asset in the estate. Rick advanced $20, 000 in cash to pay claims and costs of administration, one-half of which was returned to him from the estate.

On December 5, 2006, in finalizing the estate, the two brothers, as co-executors, signed a court officer's deed conveying the eighteen acres to Rick. Bob testified that he had a substantial child support judgment against him and the property was placed solely in Rick's name to shield it from the judgment. Bob also owed Rick money. Bob testified when the court officer's deed was given there was an oral agreement that the proceeds of any sale were to be divided on a fifty-fifty basis after the deduction of amounts Bob owed Rick. Both brothers were in agreement to sell.

The property was sold for $285, 000 under the terms of an installment contract dated July 15, 2008, and signed by Rick as the vendor. There was a $10, 000 down payment, and Bob received one-half of it. Subsequent payments were made, and in each case Bob received a share. Bob continued to live in the house on the acreage until the sale.

Rick died on August 29, 2009, leaving one child, Chelsea King, who was appointed the administrator of his estate. There was still $185, 000 due on the contract when he died. Bob filed a claim in probate for what he claims is his one-half share of the balance due on the contract.

The trial court entered an order finding that there was an oral contract between the parties whereby the remaining amount due on the contract was to be divided on a fifty-fifty basis and granted Bob's claim of $82, 500 plus interest as filed in the estate.

II. Standard of Review and Error Preservation

Because this is a law action, our review is for correction of errors at law. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. The trial court's findings of fact are binding on the appellate court if supported by substantial evidence. Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(a). Findings of fact have the effect of a special verdict and the function of the ...


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