IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP OF MAGGIE JEAN LEWIS TURNER, TIMOTHY LEWIS and KIMBERLY HAWKINS, Petitioners-Appellants.
from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Lars G.
ward's niece and nephew appeal the denial of their
applications for guardianship and conservatorship and the
appointment of the ward's long-time friends as guardians.
Magdalena Reese of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer & Reese,
P.C., West Des Moines, (until withdrawal) and Sarah E. Dewein
of Cunningham & Kelso, P.L.L.C., Urbandale, for appellant
E. Maxwell of Leff Law Firm, L.L.P., Iowa City, for appellant
Timothy J. Krumm and Stephanie A. Worrell of Meardon, Sueppel
& Downer, P.L.C., Iowa City, for appellees.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and May, JJ.
Turner is an extraordinary woman. Her family and friends
agree on that point. Witnesses described the retired school
teacher as intelligent, strong, sophisticated, and classy,
but also as stern, demanding, stubborn, and private. Now
eighty-five years old, Jean has dementia. And her extended
family and longtime friends disagree on who should assist
with her affairs.
2013, Jean granted durable medical power of attorney (POA) to
her friends, Marian and David Coleman, and general POA for
financial matters to Hills Bank and Trust Company. But
Jean's niece and nephew believe she lacked the capacity
to execute those powers of attorney and family is better
suited to tend to her needs and protect her assets.
Disagreeing with the niece and nephew, the district court
appointed the Colemans as Jean's guardians. The court
also declined to appoint a conservator. Finding no error in
those rulings, we affirm.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
Jean Lewis Turner was born and raised in Greensboro, North
Carolina, where most of her extended family still lives. In
1972, Jean and her husband, Darwin, moved to Iowa where
Darwin was an English professor and head of the Afro-American
Studies Department at the University of Iowa. Jean worked as
an elementary school teacher and retired in 1998. Jean met
Marian Coleman when they both taught in the Iowa City
Community School District. As teachers and "university
wives," they grew close and remained life-long friends.
Jean also enjoyed a warm friendship with David Coleman. The
two often talked about gardening and politics.
every year after she left North Carolina, Jean made summer
and Christmas sojourns back to Greensboro. Her nephew,
Timothy Lewis, and her niece, Kimberly Hawkins, recalled
those visits as a memorable part of their childhoods. They
enjoyed spending time with their aunt. The family believed
Jean intended to move back to North Carolina permanently. But
Jean made her last trip to Greensboro in 2009. Timothy and
Kimberly testified they maintained contact with Jean over the
phone and by writing cards and letters. Kimberly still lives
in a suburb of Greensboro. Timothy has lived in Baltimore for
the last ten years.
Darwin's death in 1991, Jean stayed in her own home but
increasingly relied on the Colemans for help in her daily
activities. She also relied on her son, Frenise Rachon Fulton
(who went by the nickname Scrappy). But Scrappy did not live
in Iowa and generally allowed the Colemans to handle
in 2009, family members noticed changes in Jean. She spoke
with long pauses, repeated herself, carried on
"bizarre" and rambling conversations, and had
memory lapses. She had always been slim and petite but seemed
to have lost weight. Although family members discussed
Jean's decline and tried to get in touch with Scrappy,
they took no additional steps to address their concerns until
summer 2011, Jean met with attorney Matthew Hayek to discuss
financial matters she had neglected, including unpaid taxes.
Hayek knew Jean "had an array of financial holdings . .
. and was in need of some help consolidating them and
handling them." Hayek connected Jean with an accountant
and tax preparer, as well as elder services. With Hayek's
assistance, Jean executed documents granting powers of
attorney to Scrappy and Clarence Skog, a close friend-who
provided her financial services. Hayek also helped Jean
execute a living will and granted durable medical power of
attorney to Scrappy.
situation shifted two years later when Scrappy died.
Jean's sister, Frances, and niece Kimberly were the only
members of Jean's family to attend the funeral in October
2013. When they arrived in Iowa City, Frances and Kimberly
felt Jean "did not seem to understand the gravity of the
situation." Uncharacteristically, Jean's hair and
clothing were dirty, and her house was unsanitary and in
disarray with unopened mail piled in boxes. The family tried
to discuss the situation with the Colemans. But the Colemans
said the power of attorney was handling her care. The family
could not determine who held Jean's powers of attorney.
after Scrappy's funeral, Jean once again met with Hayek
to discuss her estate planning. Hayek helped her execute a
will; a durable medical power of attorney, designating the
Colemans; and a durable general power of attorney,
designating Hills Bank. When Jean met with Hayek on November
14 to sign the documents, the attorney was aware of her
declining cognitive abilities and asked his staff serving as
witnesses to be "very watchful" for potential
capacity issues. Seeing none, Hayek went through the
documents with Jean that he drafted based on her consistent
instructions and helped her execute them.
2014, Jean received a diagnosis of dementia. When she was no
longer able to live in her own home, the Colemans helped her
move into a retirement community with a memory-care unit. The
facility's director described Jean as an active member of
the community-doing floral arrangements, baking ...