from the Iowa District Court for Mitchell County, Colleen D.
appeal the district court's ruling on their objection to
the co-executors' final report.
M. Armbrust of Brown, Kinsey, Funkhouser & Lander,
P.L.C., Mason City, for appellants.
L. Walk of Walk & Murphy, P.L.C., Osage, for appellees.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Mahan, S.J.
Walters died on March 8, 2016, and was survived by her five
children: Shirley Shirley, Richard Walters, Robert Walters,
Sandi Heter, and Susanne Bolt Kelley. Shirley and Richard were
nominated in Zaneta's will and appointed co-executors of
Zaneta's estate. On June 23, 2017, Shirley and Richard
filed the final report with the district court. Robert and
Sandi filed an objection to the report arguing the
co-executors breached their fiduciary duties by failing to
account for all the personal property, by selling items below
fair market value, and by improperly disposing of some
property. The district court only found the co-executors
engaged in self-dealing by gifting some Barbie dolls to a
grandchild, resulting in the district court reducing the
co-executors' distributions by $100 each. Apart from
that, the district court approved the final report, finding
the "co-executors did not otherwise breach any duty of
ordinary care and acted in accordance with a 'reasonably
prudent person' standard." The objectors appeal.
review on objections to final reports is de novo. Estate
of Randeris v. Randeris, 523 N.W.2d 600, 604 (Iowa Ct.
App. 1994); see also Iowa Code § 633.33 (2017).
The objectors bear the burden of proof to establish their
objection. In re Carson's Will, 289 N.W. 30, 37
(Iowa 1939); see also In re Estate of Wiese, 257
N.W.2d 1, 7 (Iowa 1977) ("The burden to show wrongful
conduct which suffices to surcharge a fiduciary is upon those
so asserting."). "Although we are not bound by the
trial court's findings of fact, we do give weight to
them, especially where the credibility of witnesses is
involved." In re Estate of Bruene, 350 N.W.2d
209, 211 (Iowa Ct. App. 1984).
appeal, the objectors argue the district court incorrectly
determined the co-executors had not breached their fiduciary
duties. In response, the co-executors urge us to affirm the
district court's approval of the final report, asserting
the objectors failed to meet their burden of showing the
co-executors breached their fiduciary duties in excess of the
district court's findings.
executors' fiduciary duties, Iowa Code section 633.160
Every fiduciary shall be liable and chargeable in the
fiduciary's accounts for neglect or unreasonable delay in
collecting the credits or other assets of the estate or in
selling, mortgaging or leasing the property of the estate;
for neglect in paying over money or delivering property of
the estate the fiduciary shall have in the fiduciary's
hands; for failure to account for or to close the estate
within the time provided by this probate code; for any loss
to the estate arising from the fiduciary's embezzlement
or commingling of the assets of the estate with other
property; for loss to the estate through self-dealing; for
any loss to the estate arising from wrongful acts or
omissions of any cofiduciaries which the fiduciary could have
prevented by the exercise of ordinary care; and for any other
negligent or willful act or nonfeasance in the
fiduciary's administration of the estate by which loss to
the estate arises.
objectors argue the co-executors breached their fiduciary
duties because they "committed negligent and willful
acts of nonfeasance, lost value to the estate through
self-dealing, failed to properly account for items, did not
deliver all the property in their hands to the estate, and
were absolutely negligent in their selling of the personal
property." The objectors claim the co-executors should
have sought expert advice, specifically from Robert,
regarding the market value of the items, and failure to do so
resulted in negligent selling of estate property. Also, the
objectors claim the co-executors either disposed of or
improperly accounted for numerous items that the objectors
believe should have been part of the estate. In its ruling,
the district court stated,
In whole, Shirley and [Richard] did a reasonable job
identifying the personal property. Knowing that the value of
property other than the real estate was of limited value,
they conducted an adequate investigation into the options of
disposing of it. They offered the other family
members-including the objectors-an opportunity to retrieve
items they might want. They put in the work to clean up the
home and get it ready for sale. And the Court is unconvinced
by the objectors' claims-both as to the breadth of
"missing" items and as to their value, especially
since they both had an opportunity to claim what they wanted
from Zaneta's property.
hearing, numerous witnesses provided conflicting testimony
about the property believed to be in Zaneta's possession
at the time of her death and the value of her property.
Robert, a semi-retired auctioneer, testified to the existence
of and valuations of personal property he believed existed in
his mother's estate, including jewelry, dolls, equipment,
and more. Testifying for the co-executors was
Douglas Michael, a certified personal property appraiser, who
opined the personal property in ...