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In re Estate of Erickson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 18, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF LOIS B. ERICKSON, deceased.
v.
ALAN D. ERICKSON, MARY ANN WARD, LEAH ERICKSON, LISAH ERICKSON, COOPER WARD, LUKE ERICKSON AND LAUREN ERICKSON and ALL UNKNOWN AND UNBORN BENEFICIARIES, Respondents-Appellees. WAYNE ERICKSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Boone County, Steven J. Oeth, Judge.

         Wayne Erickson appeals a ruling finding his mother's 2011 will invalid based on undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity and finding him liable for tortious interference with a bequest. AFFIRMED.

          Patrick J. Riley and Peter C. Riley of Tom Riley Law Firm, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          Amanda L. Green of Nading Law Firm, Ankeny, for appellee Estate of Lois B. Erickson.

          Kevin Cunningham of Cunningham & Kelso, P.L.L.C., Urbandale, for appellees Unknown and Unborn Beneficiaries.

          Matthew G. Sease of Kemp & Sease, Des Moines, for appellees Mary Ann Ward, Cooper Ward, and Christina Ward.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE

         An heir to his mother's estate contends the district court erred in (1) finding him liable for intentional tortious interference with a bequest, (2) assessing all the estate's attorney fees against his share of the estate, (3) denying his motion to continue, (4) precluding him from testifying as a discovery sanction, and (5) finding a 2011 will invalid based on lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Lois Erickson executed two wills before she died in 2015-one in 2010 and another in 2011. Her 2010 will divided her estate equally among her three children-Wayne Erickson, Alan Erickson, and Mary Ann Ward. Her 2011 will left the vast majority of the estate to Wayne.

         Lois' home and living conditions deteriorated over time. Alan and Mary Ann petitioned for the appointment of a guardian and conservator. On learning of the petition, Wayne had a codicil to the 2011 will drafted. The codicil provided that anyone who contested the 2011 will "shall reimburse my son, Wayne D. Erickson, at the rate of $1, 500.00 per hour." Lois signed the codicil two days before a guardianship/conservatorship hearing and gave Wayne power of attorney one day before the hearing.

         Wayne contested the appointment of a guardian and conservator and objected to a medical evaluation of Lois. The physician who evaluated her diagnosed "moderate to severe" Alzheimer's. The court ordered Alan to serve as Lois' guardian and named a bank as conservator.

         After Lois died, Alan filed a petition to probate the 2010 will. The court admitted the 2010 will to probate. Two months later, Wayne filed a "petition to set aside probate of [the 2010] will and declaratory judgment to determine last will." Wayne asserted, "[T]he [2010 will] is not the most recent Last Will and Testament of Lois B. Erickson. The [2011 will] is the Last Will and Testament of Lois Erickson and as such should be the Will being administered and probated." Mary Ann and her two children filed a counterclaim against Wayne for tortious interference with a bequest.

         The parties stipulated the issue for trial was the validity of the 2011 will. The stipulation was memorialized in a court order. Following a bench trial, the district court found the 2011 will invalid based on undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity. The court also found Wayne liable to Mary Ann and her children for tortious interference with a bequest. Finally, the court ...


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