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In re Guardianship and Conservatorship of Olson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP OF SYLVIA M. OLSON, RICHARD MAGNUSON, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Zachary Hindman, Judge.

         Richard Magnuson appeals the ruling of the district court approving the annual report of Sylvia Olson's guardian and conservator.

          R. Scott Rhinehart of Rhinehart Law, P.C., Sioux City, for appellant.

          Richard H. Moeller of Moore, Heffernan, Moeller, Johnson & Meis, L.L.P., Sioux City, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         Sylvia Olson is the mother of Richard Magnuson, Bob Magnuson, and Lori Kurtz. In 2013, Sylvia voluntarily petitioned for the appointment of Lori to be her guardian and conservator. Lori was appointed and served until Sylvia's death in October 2018.

         Shortly before the guardianship and conservatorship were opened, Lori moved Sylvia to an apartment in a Sioux City facility. Lori hired caregivers to care for Sylvia during her waking hours. At the end of July 2018, Lori filed annual guardian and conservator reports for the period from November 2016 to November 2017. Among other expenditures, Lori reported many payments to persons labeled as "Caregiver." The district court noted the amounts paid were "very significant" and requested Lori provide additional information. Lori then filed a supplemental report explaining Sylvia "receives care approximately 13 hours a day, 365 days a year. The price per hour ranges from $13 to $23 per hour." The court found the explanation insufficient, stating,

The court finds it unusual for an individual to be provided 13 hours per day of non-medical services. The court finds it unusual for approximately $67, 000.00 to be spent on such services in one year. The court finds it unusual that a substantial portion of these funds expended were paid to individuals, rather than business organizations.

         The court did not approve the report.

         In the middle of October 2018, Lori applied for authorization to expend conservatorship funds for caregivers and for approval of the conservator's annual report. The matter was set for a hearing in November. Sylvia passed away at the end of October 2018.

          Richard objected to Lori's application. He contended Sylvia had been "incompetent for the last four years and belonged in a skilled care facility with twenty-four hour care." Richard suggested Lori had paid friends exorbitant amounts of money to care for Sylvia and asserted Lori had acted contrary to Sylvia's best interests. He requested Lori's application be denied and that she "be ordered to return all the monies spent improperly and poorly." The district court summarized Richard's objections:

Richard believes that Sylvia should have received skilled care in a memory care unit; he believes in particular that Sylvia required care from skilled providers all day, every day; he believes that Sylvia required such care for the two years preceding her death; he believes that the care that Lori provided for Sylvia was inadequate because the caregivers Lori hired were not adequately qualified to provide the type of care that he believes Sylvia required; and he believes that the care that Lori provided for Sylvia-by hiring care takers for only part of the day-was not only inadequate, but also was more expensive than would have been the care that Richard believes Sylvia needed.

         Following a hearing on Lori's application and the filing of post-hearing briefs, the court overruled all of Richard's objections and approved Lori's application for expenditure of funds and the annual and supplemental conservatorship reports. The court noted several of Richard's objections about the quality of care that Lori's hired caregivers provided-"claims that Lori harmed Sylvia by providing inadequate care, or that the inadequate care that Lori provided contributed to Sylvia's death"-were claims that belonged to Sylvia's estate and should be ...


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