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In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Steelman

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 19, 2014

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP OF SHERRY G. STEELMAN; ALBERT T. STEELMAN III, Intervenor-Appellant

Editorial Note:

This opinion is subject to modification or correction by the court and is not final until the time for rehearing or further review has passed.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Douglas S. Russell, Judge. Albert J. Steelman III appeals the district court order appointing a guardian and conservator for his wife, Sherry G. Steelman.

Paul K. Waterman of Cronk & Waterman, PLC, Iowa City, for appellant.

Thomas Buchanan of Elwood, Elwood & Buchanan, Williamsburg, for appellees Sherry Steelman and Albert T. Steelman IV.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

OPINION

BOWER, J.

Albert J. Steelman III appeals the district court ruling appointing a guardian and conservator for his wife, Sherry G. Steelman. Albert claims there was insufficient evidence to support the district court's decision, the district court failed to consider other options, and he was deprived of a property interest in the ward's assets and should have been allowed to intervene in the proceedings. We find sufficient evidence to establish the conservatorship and guardianship, and the district court properly determined no other alternatives existed. We also find, as Albert Steelman III did not file a petition to intervene prior to the hearing, the district court was under no obligation to treat his request to testify as a petition to intervene. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Sherry Steelman (Sherry) is an eighty-four-year-old woman who filed a voluntary petition for appointment of guardian and conservator on April 3, 2013. Concurrent with the petition, she also sought a temporary injunction against her husband, Albert J. Steelman III (Albert) seeking to prevent Albert from disposing of any of her personal property. Sherry filed the petition after becoming convinced she could no longer manage her own finances.

The petition did not provide a value for Sherry's real property and stated she owned zero dollars' worth of personal property. In reality, Sherry possessed a significant amount of personal property. During the hearing Sherry testified she owned approximately $50,000 in stocks. In reality, her holdings were closer to $500,000. Much of this personal property was inherited from her father.

Before filing the petition, Sherry had executed at least two separate powers of attorney; one in favor of her husband, another in favor of her daughter. This led to some in-fighting, confusion, and hostility amongst her family. During the hearing Sherry displayed confusion about basic facts but had a general understanding of her finances. The record indicates the goal of her petition was to prevent her husband, whose preferences in managing money differ significantly from her own, from accessing her stocks and bank account.

After hearing testimony from Sherry and her two children, the district court entered an oral ruling granting the petition. But, being advised that Albert wanted to be heard, the court allowed him to testify, indicating it could reconsider its earlier ruling. Albert stated his lack of opposition to the guardianship, but challenged many of the factual assertions from the earlier testimony. He did not formally request to intervene in the matter and was not represented by counsel. Upon hearing his testimony, the court ...


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