In re Estate of Thompson, No. 1-948, 2012 WL 469985 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 15, 2012)

(case involves disposition of life insurance proceeds; decedent and second wife executed prenuptial agreement before marriage in 2008; agreement specified that  both parties waived any rights to each other’s separate property as listed in “Exhibit A which contained; life insurance policy with cash value of $15,000 and  face value of $100,000 “now payable” to decedent’s  spouse; decedent did not complete beneficiary change process because he did not provide all of the necessary information and it was unknown whether he ever knew the insurance company sent a letter requesting the additional information or not; without a designated beneficiary, the life insurance proceeds were paid to the estate; upon decedent’s  death, widow petitioned for spousal support; estate co-executor sought determination of whether estate should pay proceeds to widow; other co-executor (decedent’s sister who would inherit the proceeds) objected to both petitions; court determined that proceeds should be paid to widow based on the decedent’s intent  and  ambiguous “now payable” language in prenuptial agreement ; the court  denied  spousal support for widow because of the prenuptial agreement and the anticipated receipt of the insurance proceeds; sister co-executor filed several motions for review; the widow objected to the timeliness of the motions and in the alternative for the court to reconsider the denial of her request for spousal support; shortly thereafter,  sister co-executor filed notice of appeal;  probate court stated it lacked jurisdiction to decide the motions for review based on the appeal; on review by Iowa Supreme Court, Court remanded issue back to probate court for consideration of  sister’s motion for further review; the probate court affirmed its decision to grant the life insurance proceeds to the widow, but granted surviving spouse benefits to the widow for one year due to the delay in receiving the life insurance proceeds; the sister appealed both issues; on appeal, a majority affirmed both issues; one judge also affirmed the grant of spousal support, but disagreed that the widow should receive the life insurance proceeds; dissent pointed out that prenuptial agreement not ambiguous and that the Exhibit A was a list of assets only and not an intent to provide the insurance to the widow; dissent also pointed out that extrinsic evidence was used improperly by the court to find an ambiguity and then further extrinsic evidence used to interpret ambiguity, which is in conflict with contract interpretation principles; dissent also opined  that written obligations of the parties (premarital agreement, life insurance policy, and will) did not show the intent to give the insurance proceeds to widow.