MARCIA E. ROLL, Appellant,
RUSSELL L. NEWHALL, Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Butler County, James M.
beneficiary appeals a district court ruling declaring that
another beneficiary's adoption out of his biological
family after the execution of a will did not preclude him
from inheriting under a provision of the will that identified
him by name and class designation. AFFIRMED.
D. Hanson and Melissa A. Schilling of Dickinson, Mackaman,
Tyler & Hagen, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.
C. Peglow and Bethany J. Currie of Peglow, O'Hare &
See, P.L.C., Marshalltown, for appellee.
testator executed a last will and testament devising property
to her two adult children-a son and a daughter. After the
will was executed but before the testator's death, the
son was adopted by a paternal aunt. The testator's
daughter filed this action after the testator's death
seeking a declaratory judgment establishing that the adoption
terminated her sibling's ability to inherit under the
will. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district
court concluded the son's adoption out of his biological
family did not preclude him from taking under his biological
mother's will, which identified him as a beneficiary both
by name and by membership in a class. We affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Newhall and Marcia Roll are the biological adult children of
Marrian Newhall. Marrian executed her last will and testament
in 2006. Article II of the will provided,
In the event my husband does not survive me, all the rest,
residue and remainder of my property I give to my children,
RUSSELL L. NEWHALL and MARCIA E. ROLL, share and share alike.
All references to child or children shall include all
children born to or adopted by me after the date this Will is
will also named Russell and Marcia as executors to serve
2007, Russell was adopted as an adult by his paternal aunt,
Janice Anway, who wished to avoid Iowa's inheritance tax
on her estate.
passed away in August 2014. She was not survived by a spouse.
As a consequence of the adoption, Russell was Marrian's
nephew under the law and her biological son at the time of
the executor and a beneficiary of the residue of
Marrian's estate, filed this action seeking a declaration
that Russell's adoption out of the family precluded him
from inheriting under the provisions of Marrian's
will. Marcia's petition alleged
entitlement to such relief because the will clearly expressed
Marrian's intent to leave the property to her
"children, " and as a consequence of the adoption
Russell was not Marrian's child under the applicable law
at the time of her death. Russell filed an answer asserting
his adoption by Anway did not change his relationship with
his parents and that Marrian's intent for him to inherit
and serve as coexecutor is clearly expressed in her last will
August 2015, Marcia and Russell filed cross-motions for
summary judgment. The district court granted summary
judgment, concluding Russell could inherit under the terms of
Marrian's will despite the adoption because he was
clearly named as an individual under the will's
provisions and no statute barred him from recovering.
appeal, Marcia makes two arguments. First, she contends the
district court made an error of law in its determination of
the testator's intent. In particular, Marcia asserts the
district court misunderstood relevant caselaw and did not
take into account the will's language or the facts and
circumstances surrounding its execution. Second, Marcia
asserts that even if the terms of the will would otherwise
permit Russell to inherit despite his adoption by Anway, we
should hold-based on public policy-that a beneficiary's
right to inherit under a biological relative's will is
extinguished when the beneficiary severs his or her legal
relationship with that relative through a voluntary adult
contends his status as a beneficiary under Marrian's will
persists even after his adoption because he is a named
beneficiary-not merely an unidentified member of a familial
class consisting of the testator's children.
Standard of Review.
review summary judgment rulings for correction of errors at
law. Baker v. City of Iowa City, 867 N.W.2d 44, 51
(Iowa 2015). "On review, 'we examine the record
before the district court to determine whether any material
fact is in dispute, and if not, whether the district court
correctly applied the law.' " J.A.H. ex rel.
R.M.H. v. Wadle & Assocs., P.C., 589 N.W.2d 256, 258
(Iowa 1999) (quoting Shriver v. City of Okoboji, 567
N.W.2d 397, 400 (Iowa 1997)). "We . . . view the record
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and will
grant that party all reasonable inferences that can be drawn
from the record." Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v.
Baldi, 880 N.W.2d 451, 455 (Iowa 2016) (quoting
Cawthorn v. Catholic Health Initiatives Iowa Corp.,
806 N.W.2d 282, 286 (Iowa 2011)).