Sibling Rivalry Complicates Probate

May 27, 2010 | Erin Herbold


In this case, the parties' father died and his estate property passed to the parties' mother.  She subsequently died in 2006 with a will providing that her property would be divided equally among her four surviving children and the heirs of a predeceased child.  

The executor, a daughter, filed a petition for probate in 2006, but her brother filed a motion seeking to have her removed as executor. The court denied the removal. Then the beneficiaries, other than the executor, filed a petition contesting the validity of the will. The court also dismissed the petition, and in 2008 a final report was filed.  The court set a hearing date and all interested parties were notified. No one objected and the court approved the final report. 

After the final report was approved, two of the sons filed a motion for appointment of an attorney to be paid for by the estate. The court denied the request, but the two sons, representing themselves, continued to take issue with the probate process when the court approved the executor’s proposed distribution of the estate assets. Instead of objecting at the time of the hearing on the final accounting, they filed a request for readjustment of the distribution after the court order was issued. Tired of the continuous filings in this case, the court ruled that the clerk “shall not accept for filing in this proceeding any document unless an Order authorizing the filing of the specific document has been entered” by the court. 

The court then ordered the estate closed, and the two sons appealed. They argued that the court prematurely closed the estate and that all of the issues they raised had not been properly adjudicated. The Iowa Court of Appeals disagreed, and reminded the sons that they had notice and a right to be heard on their multiple “issues” before the court ordered the approval of the final report, the final distribution, and the closure of the estate.  Because they had not filed timely appeals within the structure of the Iowa Probate Code they were out of luck.  In re Estate of Mienke, No. 0-172/09-0929, 2010 Iowa App. LEXIS 391 (Iowa Ct. App. May 12, 2010).