ESTATE OF WILBUR M. ARNOLD, WILLIAM D. ARNOLD, Plaintiff-Appellant,
BRUCE C. ARNOLD, Individually and as Executor, KAREN L. HEUER, as Executor, STEVEN C. ARNOLD, as Executor, BCA FARMLAND CORPORATION, ARLYS L. ARNOLD, DON R. ARNOLD, LANCE J. ARNOLD, MARY A. ARNOLD, and WARREN J. ARNOLD, Defendants-Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Hancock County, Colleen D.
nephew of the decedents appeals the district court's
grant of summary judgment for various relatives on his claims
of undue influence and tortious interference with a bequest.
J. Dutton and Nathan J. Schroeder of Dutton, Braun, Staack
& Hellman, P.L.C., Waterloo, for appellant.
Michael A. Smith and Lawrence B. Cutler of Craig, Smith &
Cutler, LLP, Eldora, for appellees BCA Farmland Corp, Bruce
C. Arnold, Mary A. Arnold, and Warren J. Arnold. Joel J.
Yunek of Yunek Law Firm, P.L.C., Mason City, for appellees
Karen L. Heuer and Steven Arnold.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Tabor, J., and Vogel, S.J.
Arnold did not receive the inheritance of farmland he
anticipated from either his aunt Evelyn or his uncle
Wilbur. After their deaths, he contested
Wilbur's will and claimed family members tortiously
interfered with his expected bequest from Evelyn. The
district court found no genuine issue of material fact and
granted the defendants' motion for judgment as a matter
of law. On appeal, William insists he generated jury
questions on both claims. Finding summary judgment was
proper, we affirm.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
Wilbur, Evelyn, Roy, and Bruce inherited Hancock County
farmland from their father, Elmer Arnold. Neither Wilbur nor
Evelyn ever married or had children. By contrast, their brothers
Roy and Bruce each had four children. Roy's children
included William-who is the plaintiff here-as well as Don,
Arlys, and Lance, defendants in William's petition.
William also sued Bruce and his four children: Karen Heuer,
Warren, Mary, and Steven. To complete the roster, William
listed as a defendant Bruce's family farm corporation,
Elmer's children, only Wilbur and Roy went into farming.
In turn, Roy's children, William and Lance, farmed with
their uncle Wilbur for twenty years, until Wilbur retired in
1995. William recalled "butting heads" with Wilbur
in the late 1980s over what chemicals to apply in the farming
operation but claims it did not impact their relationship.
William also rented farmland from his aunt Evelyn and his
uncle Bruce. William alleges Bruce controlled the rental
terms for both his land and Evelyn's.
summary judgment evidence, William highlights a letter Bruce
drafted on BCA Farmland Corporation letterhead in 1992,
telling his four children:
Evelyn and Wilbur are originating and changing their wills.
Their present thinking is to leave much of their farmland to
all four of you in undivided one-fourth interests. Their
intent and, as you know, my goal is that the Arnold farmland
remain within the family through your generation, and
hopefully through the next generation.
letter explained BCA Farmland "provides the legal
framework that can permit this to happen." In closing,
Bruce expressed his hope the inheritance transfers would not
take place until well into the future and noted "their
plans are certainly generous and it is in the interest of us
all to carry them out."
letter was prescient in its desire that Evelyn and Wilbur
would live long lives and their estates would be a future
concern. Evelyn died in 2012, at age 90. She had signed her
latest will in 2008. The estate closed the probate in 2013.
William did not contest her will. In fact, as part of those
probate proceedings, he accepted a bequest of $103, 000 from
her estate. But William did offer an unsigned copy of