IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF DONALD G. SPECK, Deceased.
MARK D. FARGO, Petitioner-Appellee. LISA M. SPECK, MATTHEW D. SPECK, TODD M. SPECK, JEREMY J. SPECK, and NICHOLAS A. SPECK, Intervenors-Appellants,
from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Patrick W.
children appeal a district court order granting a petition to
probate a lost will.
B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, PC,
West Des Moines, for appellants.
Matthew D. Gardner of Gardner Law Firm, PC, Urbandale, and
John D. Hartung of Hartung & Schroeder, Des Moines, for
by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
children of Donald Speck (Don) appeal a district court order
granting a petition to probate a lost will filed by
Donald's ex-son-in-law, Mark Fargo, under which Mark was
a beneficiary and co-executor and the majority of
Donald's children were disinherited. The children argue
the presumption of revocation was not rebutted by clear,
satisfactory, and convincing evidence. They also assert the
court erroneously shifted the burden of proof to them.
Background Facts and Proceedings
his ex-wife, Margo, had five children: Matthew, Todd, Jeremy,
Nicholas, and Lisa. The negative nature of the dissolution of
Don and Margo's marriage, Don's perception that the
children favored Margo, and Margo's remarriage to
Don's friend led to varying degrees of hostility and
alienation between Don and his children for many years.
executed a will on August 15, 2012 with the assistance of his
long-time attorney Robert Thomson. The will left fifty
percent of the residue of Don's estate to his son,
Jeremy, and fifty percent to his then son-in-law, Mark, and
named both as co-executors of the estate. The will also
expressly disinherited Don's other four children. Thomson
retained a copy of the will, gave the original to Don, and
advised him to keep it in a safe place. Don was known to use
a filing cabinet in his house to keep important documents. On
the same day, Don also executed a durable general power of
attorney and a power of attorney for healthcare decisions,
naming Mark and Jeremy as attorneys-in-fact. Soon after, Don
met with Mark and Jeremy to reveal he had written a will and
put both of them in charge of it. He told them the will would
anger the rest of the family but did not produce a copy or
explain the specifics of the will. Don also asked Mark and
Jeremy to not reveal this conversation to anyone, including
time the will was executed, Mark was married to Don's
daughter, Lisa, and had known Don and the family since
childhood. In September 2014, Mark petitioned for a
dissolution of their marriage. During the time of the
dissolution proceedings, Mark continued to talk with Don and
met him at a car show. Mark had keys to and stored a car in
Don's garage. Don and Mark also worked on a sewer project
at Don's home until Don's stroke.
December 3, 2015, Don suffered a catastrophic stroke. He was
hospitalized and ultimately died on December 16. Don's
son Matthew moved into Don's home during his
hospitalization and remained there after his death based upon
the recommendation that someone be present at the house in
order to protect the house and other assets and handle any
issues with Don's tenant.
December 28, Don's son Jeremy met with Thomson alone to
discuss the estate and its assets as well as the process
going forward. Thomson showed Jeremy a copy of the will in
his possession and informed Jeremy to look for the original
of that copy. On December 31, Thomson met with Don's
children and Mark to review the terms of the will. Before
this meeting, Jeremy met with his siblings and informed them
that the contents of the will could frustrate them, but he
did not explain the specifics of his siblings'
disinheritance. At the December 31 meeting, after discovering
that Mark was to receive fifty percent of the estate, two of
Don's children asked Mark to decline and waive his rights
under the will. Mark refused. When Thomson asked Jeremy if he
had found the original will yet, Jeremy answered he had not
looked for it yet.
and Matthew subsequently conducted a search of Don's
home. Lisa was present during the search. All three testified
they did not find Don's original will. However, they
found a life insurance policy worth ...