IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF MARGARET E. WORKMAN, Deceased,
GARY WORKMAN, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Margaret E. Workman, Appellee. DENNIS WORKMAN, Appellant,
review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, John D.
contestant seeks further review of a court of appeals
decision affirming the district court judgment entered in the
will proponent's favor.
M. Updegraff of Hopkins & Huebner, P.C., Des Moines, for
P. Kresowik of Stanley, Lande & Hunter, P.C., Davenport,
review of a will contest proceeding raises two questions for
our consideration. First, the unsuccessful will contestant
asks us to adopt the Restatement (Third) of Property standard
concerning the appropriate burden of proof in an undue
influence case where a confidential relationship existed.
Second, the contestant argues the district court abused its
discretion in denying his motion to amend the pleadings to
conform to the proof at the close of his case. That motion
sought to broaden the contestant's undue influence claim
to include all of the testator's prior wills and
conclude the first issue is not preserved for our review. The
contestant asks us to overturn a ruling on burden of proof
that was incorporated within a pretrial order denying summary
judgment. Yet the contestant never renewed his position at
trial. Instead, when presented with jury instructions that
reiterated the same burden-of-proof standard, the contestant
indicated he had no objection. Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure
1.924 requires more.
second issue, we find no abuse of discretion. The district
court correctly determined that this last-minute amendment
would have broadened the issues and the proof. Also, this
case falls within our precedent upholding denials of motions
to amend under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.457 when the
motion is based on facts the movant knew or should have known
before trial. See, e.g., Meincke v. Nw. Bank
& Tr. Co., 756 N.W.2d 223, 229 (Iowa 2008).
Accordingly, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals
and affirm the judgment of the district court.
I. Background Facts & Proceedings.
Workman died on December 26, 2012, at the age of eighty-nine,
survived by her husband, LaVerne Workman, and their three
children, Dennis, Gary, and Cynthia. Long before
Margaret's death, Gary had decided to move back home to
farm in eastern Iowa. For the next thirty-one years until his
mother's death, Gary lived within five miles of his
parents and saw them on a nearly daily basis as he farmed
with them. Dennis, however, took up residences around the
country and became involved in a number of business ventures,
several of which were unsuccessful.
will and codicil were admitted to probate on January 24,
2013. Margaret had previously executed a series of wills and
codicils that provided for the distribution of her personal
and real property and established a trust for the benefit of
her husband and son Dennis.
death, Margaret owned approximately 200 acres of farmland,
and she was supremely concerned about what would happen to
this land at her passing, often discussing the issue with her
family and her attorneys. Margaret became, according to her
attorney, "obsessed with her estate-planning
documents." From 1983 to 2008, Margaret altered her
distribution plan through either will or codicil no fewer
than ten times.
initial will, executed in 1983, provided a life estate for
her husband in all of her personal property and the
homestead. The farmland was to be divided into three parcels,
with LaVerne receiving forty acres and Gary and Dennis
receiving eighty acres each. In the event LaVerne predeceased
Margaret, Gary's daughter Christine would inherit the
forty acres that would have been LaVerne's, and the
remaining 160 acres would go entirely to Gary, with Dennis
inheriting none of the farmland. Apparently concerned about
the possibility of Dennis's numerous creditors reaching
the farmland, Margaret later executed a codicil to this will
to create a spendthrift trust for Dennis's benefit.
next few wills made shifts in the property distribution, many
of which benefited Gary, in response to Gary's work on
the farm for his parents. Margaret noted the apparent
discrepancy for the first time in her 1987 will, in which she
stated, "It may appear that I have provided more
generously for my son, Gary, than my other two children, but
in part it is in repayment for work and improvements he has
done on our farmlands." Every subsequent will executed
by Margaret contained similar precatory language.
final will, executed in 2007, passed the homestead to the
Workman Family Trust, subject to a life estate for LaVerne
and a right of first refusal to purchase in favor of Gary,
and distributed 160 of the 200 acres of farmland in life
estate to LaVerne, with the remainder passing to Gary.
Gary's interest was subject to $25, 000 in equalization
payments to be paid by him at $2500 per year over a ten-year
period. The remaining forty acres of land went to Gary's
two children. The will contains the following statement by
Margaret, similar to the one first included in the 1987 will:
My husband and I wish to formally acknowledge that we
recognize and understand that the cumulative effect of our
Wills and The Workman Family Trust will be to give our son,
Gary, a disproportionately large share of our combined
assets. We have intentionally and knowingly made these
provisions understanding that Gary will receive more of our
combined estates than our other two children. We have done
this to recognize the many years of contribution and effort
made by Gary, which has benefitted us over the years that he
has lived near us. The statement I am making in this
paragraph is merely precatory and intended to express my
2008, Margaret executed a codicil to the 2007 will, adding a
provision to prevent the sale of the farmland for a period of
three years. In the event the farmland was sold within three
years of Margaret's death, the proceeds from the sale in
excess of $5000 per acre would be divided equally among Gary,
Cynthia, and the Workman Family Trust.
months after Margaret's death, on June 14, 2013, Dennis
filed a petition to set aside the 2007 will and the 2008
codicil in the Iowa District Court for Scott County. The
petition alleged both undue influence by Gary and lack of
testamentary capacity on the part of Margaret, and also
sought the imposition of a constructive trust. On July 9,
2014, Gary filed a motion for summary judgment seeking
dismissal of the case. After an opportunity for discovery, on
March 12, 2015, the district court granted in part and denied
in part Gary's motion. The court dismissed the
testamentary capacity and constructive trust claims but
denied summary judgment as to undue influence.
resistance to the motion for summary judgment, Dennis had
argued that the existence of a confidential relationship
between Gary and Margaret shifted the burden to Gary to prove
that there was no undue influence. Although the district
court ultimately denied summary judgment on the issue of
undue influence, the court disagreed with Dennis's
contention that the burden would shift for a testamentary
[I]t appears as if this analysis is only considered when
inter vivos transfers are involved. See In the Matter of
Estate of Todd, 585 N.W.2d 273, 277 (Iowa 1998). . . .
Here, we only have testamentary transfers at issue and thus
the burden shifting does not appear to apply. It remains for
the Plaintiff to establish at trial the Defendant unduly
influenced Mrs. Workman and there is a fact question
precluding summary judgment on that issue.
case proceeded to trial on the undue influence claim. At the
close of the plaintiff's case, Dennis moved to amend the
pleadings to conform to the proof to allow the jury to
consider undue influence for the entire series of wills and
codicils Margaret made from to 1983 to 2008. Neither the
initial petition nor the amended petition had challenged the
earlier wills. Ruling from the bench, the court denied the
motion to amend, stating,
[B]ecause the defense has prepared their whole strategy and
their whole basis of this case in defending the 2007 Will and
the 2008 Codicil and did not defend the earlier Wills, there
could have been and would have been . . . much different
proof presented [and] many different witnesses called,
it's too late in the game and the motion to amend is
Gary submitted proposed jury instructions. At the close of
evidence, in accordance with Gary's proposed
instructions, the jury was instructed that "[t]he law
presumes a person is free from undue influence, " and to
overcome this presumption, Dennis had to prove "[t]he
result was clearly brought about by undue influence."
Dennis never objected to these instructions or requested
alternate instructions shifting the burden of proof to
jury returned verdicts in Gary's favor finding no undue
influence as to ...