from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Henry W.
Latham II, Judge.
appeals the denial of its petition to quiet title.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Janelle Grace Ewing of The Sayer Law Group P.C., Waterloo,
C. Thomas, Clinton, pro se appellee.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
Fargo Bank, N.A. (Wells Fargo) appeals the denial of its
petition to quiet title as to unknown heirs of Larry F.
Humphrey. Wells Fargo asserts it gave proper notice to any
unknown heirs by publication. We agree notice by publication
is sufficient as to unknown heirs, and no estate need be
opened to quiet title. Therefore, we reverse and remand.
September 8, 2008, Larry Humphrey executed a note borrowing
$62, 521. Larry and his wife, Margaret E. Humphrey, also
executed a mortgage on real estate they owned in Clinton to
secure the loan.
died on March 18, 2017, and the note was soon in default. On
July 21, 2017, Wells Fargo filed a petition in foreclosure,
seeking judgment in rem, and to quiet title as to the
Humphreys' mortgaged real estate. The petition named as
defendants Jason Thomas, several other known parties, and
"all known and unknown claimants and all persons known
or unknown claiming any right, title or interest and all of
their heirs, spouses, assigns, grantees, legatees, devisees
and all of the above named defendants." Wells Fargo also
moved for appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL) for any
unknown heirs, which the court granted. Wells Fargo published
notice of the foreclosure in a local newspaper once weekly
for three consecutive weeks, and it personally provided
notice to the GAL on behalf of the unknown heirs. According
to a report from the GAL, Jason Thomas said that he was
Larry's only child, that Margaret "passed away
several years ago," and that no estate had been opened
January 10, 2018, the court granted the default judgment
against Thomas and the other named defendants. However, the
court declined to quiet title as to any unknown heirs,
finding notice by publication "is insufficient to put
[any unknown heirs] on notice of the foreclosure
Fargo appeals the denial of its petition to quiet title as to
the unknown heirs. "Actions for quiet title lie in
equity. As such, our review is de novo." Moser v.
Thorp Sales Corp., 312 N.W.2d 881, 886 (Iowa 1981);
see also Iowa R. App. P. 6.907.
the appellees have not responded to this action, the district
court was concerned about the due process rights of any
unknown heirs. See War Eagle Vill. Apartments v.
Plummer, 775 N.W.2d 714, 719 (Iowa 2009) ("[W]hen
an individual's property interests are at stake, that
person is entitled to adequate notice and a reasonable
opportunity to be heard."). The court found notice by
publication was insufficient to put the unknown heirs on
notice of the foreclosure action. Instead, the court found,
"Iowa's Probate Code provides the adequate
procedural safeguards required by War Eagle for all
persons with an interest in the real estate wherein [Wells
Fargo] seeks foreclosure." However, the Probate Code
only requires that unknown heirs receive notice by
publication "once each week for two consecutive
weeks." Iowa Code § 633.230(1) (2017). Wells Fargo
provided notice by publication once each week for three
consecutive weeks, and it served notice on the GAL appointed
to represent the unknown heirs. Thus, opening an estate as
the court suggests would provide no greater notice than Wells
Fargo has already provided.
an estate need not be opened before foreclosure is consistent
with the Iowa Land Title Standards. Standard 7.8(1) states:
If a foreclosure court had in rem jurisdiction of the persons
with an interest in the estate of a deceased borrower, and
entered a decree of foreclosure, there is generally no need
to open an estate for the deceased borrower. Under the
doctrine of res judicata, a title problem can only arise in
such a case if a person in interest ...