IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT EARL SIEFKAS, Deceased. MICHAEL SIEFKAS, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Clarke County, John D.
beneficiary appeals the district court's order in an
M. Sand, Des Moines, for appellant.
Richard O. McConville of Coppola, McConville, Carroll,
Hockenberg & Flynn, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellee.
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Mullins, J., and Potterfield, S.J.
Siefkas appeals a district court order in a proceeding
concerning his father's estate. Michael argues the
district court erred in determining a jointly-held account
should be listed on the estate inventory and was subject to
attorney fees. He also argues the jointly-held account was
not an estate asset.
Background Facts and Proceedings
Siefkas passed away in September 2017. His spouse preceded
him in death. Robert left four sons, William, Steven,
Robert J. (Jim), and Michael. Robert left a duly executed
will that was submitted to probate by attorney Richard Murphy
in October 2017. Robert's estate included real property
and various items of personal property. Robert also had three
bank accounts held jointly with his sons. One checking
account, ending 5094, was held jointly with Michael. Michael
said discussions with Robert indicated the 5094 account was a
"business account" linked to a home being rented by
Jim. Another checking account, ending 1511, was held jointly
with Steven. Michael indicated the 1511 account was similarly
linked to the home being rented by Steven. A third checking
account, ending 3324, contained more than $190, 000 and was
held jointly with Steven and Michael. Nearly six months after
Robert's death, Steven and Michael evenly split the
remainder of the 3324 account. In February 2018, the
inventory form was filed with the court, which included all
three checking accounts as jointly-held interests of the
deceased. Michael questioned the inclusion of account 3324 on
the inventory and complained Murphy did not answer his
petitioned to have Michael replaced as the executor.
Following a hearing in August 2018, William was appointed to
replace Michael as executor of the estate. Michael then moved
for approval of an executor's fee and to correct the
inventory by removing account 3324. Following a hearing in
November, the district court found account 3324 was properly
included on the inventory form and included the account in
analyzing a reasonable fee for Michael's services as the
executor until he was removed. Michael filed a motion to
reconsider, enlarge, or amend pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil
Procedure 1.904(2), asking the court to, among other things,
clarify whether account 3324 was an estate asset. The motion
was denied. Michael appeals.
makes three arguments on appeal. First, Michael argues the
district court erred in finding account 3324 should be
included on the probate inventory form. Second, Michael
argues the district court erred in finding account 3324 was
subject to attorney fees. Third, Michael argues account 3324
is not an estate asset. Also, in Michael's reply brief,
he asks this court to disregard eighty-five pages of a
transcript from a hearing not on appeal. Those pages are not
relevant to the issues on appeal and we do not consider them.
the estate asset issue is distinguishable from the inventory
and attorney fee issues, we begin with a discussion of estate
assets. Michael argues account 3324 should not be considered
an estate asset. Although the court found account 3324 should
be listed on the inventory form, the court denied the
1.904(2) motion and declined to rule on the question of
whether the account was an estate asset. Specific types of
probate proceedings are statutorily deemed "law
actions," including "[a]ctions to set aside or
contest wills . . . and for the establishment of contested
claims." Iowa Code § 633.33 (2017). A challenge to
the contents of a decedent's gross estate is not
explicitly included in the statutory language. See
id. The estate argues the issue should be framed as a
contested claim, rendering this a law action pursuant to
section 633.33. Michael has not appealed the district
court's decision concerning his fee claim. His only
claims on appeal relate to matters of administration, which
are in equity and reviewed de novo. In re Estate of
Cory, 184 N.W.2d 693, 696-97 (Iowa 1971).
assets are property items belonging to a decedent that are
"subject to administration by a personal
representative." Iowa Code § 633.3(31). However,
certain types of property transfer ownership outside of
probate proceedings. See Iowa Code § 633.5
(stating life insurance proceeds are not estate property
unless made payable to a decedent's estate); In re
Estate of Roehlke, 231 N.W.2d 26, 28 ...