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In re Virgil De Groote Revocable Trust

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 6, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF THE VIRGIL DE GROOTE REVOCABLE TRUST, KAREN DE GROOTE, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Franklin County, Christopher C. Foy, Judge.

         Karen De Groote appeals the district court's ruling removing her as trustee of her father's trust and ordering her to pay part of the attorney's fees of the beneficiaries that filed the petition. AFFIRMED.

          Brian D. Miller of Miller & Miller, P.C., Hampton, for appellant.

          Chad W. Eichorn of Pearson Bollman Law, West Des Moines, for appellees.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J. and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          DOYLE, JUDGE

         Karen De Groote appeals the district court's ruling removing her as trustee of her father's trust and ordering her to pay part of the attorney's fees incurred by the beneficiaries that filed the petition. Upon our review, we affirm the court's ruling.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In July 2008, Virgil De Groote entered into a Revocable Trust Agreement (trust), which declared Virgil as the trustor and the trustee of his private trust. The names of his then living five children were identified therein: Karen, Theresa, Christopher, Sharon, and Curtis. The trust designated Karen as successor trustee upon Virgil's death, and Theresa was designated as Karen's successor trustee. The assets of the trust were to be divided equally between Virgil's five children.

         The trust granted the trustee all powers necessary to properly administrate the trust "without the necessity of notice to or approval of any court or person." The trust generally waived court reporting, but the trust permitted the trustee or any beneficiary to invoke the court's jurisdiction in the event it was necessary. Additionally, the trust required the trustee to annually "make an accounting to all beneficiaries, and the approval by a beneficiary . . . shall release and relieve the Trustee for any further responsibility or liability with respect to that beneficiary . . . for its actions during the period covered by the account."

         Virgil passed away on June 8, 2015, and Karen became trustee of the trust. In July 2016, Karen's sisters Theresa and Sharon requested Karen provide a full accounting of the trust after she failed to do so within the year.

         In August 2016, Karen's sisters filed a petition in district court, later amended in October 2016, seeking invocation of the court's jurisdiction and removal of Karen as the trustee. The petition alleged Karen had failed to perform her duties as trustee and requested Theresa be named as the successor trustee after Karen's removal. On January 6, 2017, following a hearing, the district court entered its order invoking jurisdiction and ordering Karen to "provide all beneficiaries a complete itemized accounting within thirty days." The court also directed Karen to obtain an appraisal of the trust's real estate and then distribute the appraisal to the trust's beneficiaries.

         In March 2017, Theresa and Sharon filed an application for rule to show cause why Karen should not be held in contempt because Karen had not provided the accounting previously ordered by the court. They asked the court to find Karen in contempt and to remove her as the trustee. Theresa and Sharon requested Karen be ordered to pay their attorney's fees in the matter.

         In response, Karen advised the court "[t]he documentation was presented to some of the beneficiaries on February 6, 2017," and the documentation was forwarded "on to the attorney for Theresa DeGroote and Sharon DeGroote on February 8, 2017." Karen asserted the "documentation constitut[ed] adequate information regarding the estate and that it compl[ied] with what is required by state law." Karen stated she had not violated the court's order, but she ...


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