IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN E. TERPSTRA, Deceased,
VICKIE TERPSTRA, Executor of the Estate of John E. Terpstra-Appellee. RONALD G. TERPSTRA, Beneficiary-Appellant,
from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Myron L.
Terpstra appeals the dismissal of his petition for
Randall C. Stravers of Stravers Law Firm, Oskaloosa, for
Michael P. Holzworth, Des Moines, and Daniel M. Manning, Jr.
of Lillis O'Malley Olson Manning Pose Templeman LLP, Des
Moines, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
appeal raises the question whether pleading the wrong statute
of limitations in a motion to dismiss nevertheless preserves
the affirmative defense of a different statute of
limitations. Because a party relying upon a statute of
limitations as a defense must specifically plead that intent
and then show the facts constituting the bar, we conclude the
failure to identify the correct statute operates as a waiver
of that defense. Accordingly, we reverse the dismissal of the
declaratory-judgment action brought by Ronald Terpstra and
remand for further proceedings.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
1989, John Terpstra bought a $25, 000 life insurance policy,
naming his wife, Mary, as the beneficiary. More than two
decades later, at age 83, John filed a voluntary petition for
appointment of a guardian and conservator, proposing his son
Ronald for the position. John signed the petition on
September 14, 2013. Nine days later, on September 23, John
signed a change of beneficiary form, directing one hundred
percent of the proceeds of his life insurance policy go to
his daughter, Vickie.
died in December 2013. The district court admitted John's
will into probate and opened the estate in January 2014.
Vickie served as executor of her father's estate. More
than two years later, on November 8, 2016, Ronald filed a
petition for declaratory judgment asking the district court
to find that when John changed beneficiaries on the life
insurance policy he was "not acting voluntarily and on
his own behalf" but rather "was under the undue
influence of Vickie."
January 2017, Vickie-as executor of the estate-filed a motion
to dismiss Ronald's petition, alleging the filing was
outside of the four-month period for filing claims under Iowa
Code sections 633.410 and 633.415 (2014). The motion
contended Ronald, as a residuary beneficiary of the estate,
received proper notice under the probate code. The motion
also asserted Ronald's petition failed "to
adequately plead the elements necessary to establish a claim
of undue influence."
2017, after holding a hearing on the matter, the district
court decided Ronald failed "to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted." The court rejected Vickie's
argument that Ronald's petition was untimely under Iowa
Code sections 633.410 or 633.309. But the court sua sponte
decided his petition was barred by Iowa Code section
614.1(2). The court declined to reach the merits of
Ronald's undue-influence claim. Ronald now appeals,
arguing the district court erred by considering the
statute-of-limitations defense under section 614.1(2).
Standard of Review
parties agree we review the ruling on a motion to dismiss for
legal error. See Rieff v. Evans, 6 ...