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In re Estate of Houser

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 3, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF HELEN E. HOUSER, Deceased. BONNIE FORBES, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Patrick R. Grady, Judge.

         A sibling appeals from an order concerning her mother's estate.

          David Burbidge of Johnston, Stannard, Klesner Burbidge & Fitzgerald P.L.C., Iowa City, for appellant.

          John E. Beasley and Thomas E. Williams of Phelan, Tucker, Mullen, Walker, Tucker & Gelman, L.L.P., Iowa City, for appellee Woodrow Houser.

          Thomas E. Maxwell of Leff Law Firm, L.L.P., Iowa City, for appellee Estate.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Doyle, J., and Vogel, S.J. [*]

          Vaitheswaran, Presiding Judge.

         A mother of four children died, leaving a significant estate to be distributed to her children under the terms of her will. In this second appeal, one of the siblings challenges the district court's (A) reduction of her share of the estate, (B) refusal to reduce a brother's share of the estate, (C) allocation of executor fees, and (D) refusal to order the payment of certain charges incurred for upkeep of estate assets.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Helen Houser died in 2012, and her will was admitted to probate. Her daughter Bonnie Forbes and son Lawrence Houser were named co-executors of the estate. Forbes was later removed as co-executor, a decision this court affirmed on appeal. See In re Estate of Houser, No. 15-1993, 2017 WL 363238, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 25, 2017).

         In time, executor Lawrence Houser submitted a final report. He proposed a reduction of Forbes' distributive share by $57, 622.69, which represented the increased value of an annuity the court previously ordered transferred to the estate. He also proposed a reduction of his brother Woodrow Houser's distributive share by $36, 557.71, based on unpaid debts to their parents. Finally, he requested seventy percent of the statutory executor fees as well as extraordinary fees of $6000, with the remaining thirty percent of the ordinary fees going to Forbes for her initial work as co-executor.

         Forbes objected to the following portions of the final report:

a. Reduction of [her] share of the estate related to the annuity.
b. Valuation of Woodrow Houser's debt to the estate.
c. Her executor fee.
d. The executor fee of [Lawrence] Houser.
e. Failure to include expenses for care of the estate property as an expense of the estate or a claim against the estate.

         The district court (1) reduced Forbes' distributive share by $52, 837.81 rather than the proposed $57, 622.69, (2) declined to reduce Woodrow Houser's distributive share, (3) granted Forbes thirty-five percent of the executor fee rather than the thirty percent recommended by the executor, (4) granted Lawrence Houser sixty-five percent rather than seventy percent of the ordinary executor fee and extraordinary fees of $4500 rather than $6000, and (5) disallowed the charges incurred in maintaining assets of the estate.

         Forbes appealed. The executor did not file a cross-appeal.

         II. ...


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