Son Disputes Trial Court’s Order To Pay Debts Owing To Parent’s Estate

November 15, 2010 | Erin Herbold


In order to close an estate admitted to probate in Iowa, the executor must prepare and file a final report. Here, a married couple had four sons between them, but only one child was a child of the marriage. The husband died in 1996, followed by his wife in 1998. The wife deeded her home to their biological son and appointed him executor of her estate. The remainder of her estate was divided equally among all four sons. The executor sold his mother’s home for $58,500. Around that time, the son was removed as executor, following claims made by the husband’s biological children that he failed to act competently. 

The case proceeded to trial and the court found that the executor misappropriated $15,000 cash from his mother before her death. The court ordered him to repay that amount and also ordered him to pay a monthly rent for property of the estate he occupied after his mother’s death. The court also ordered that the proceeds of the sale of the home were to be held in escrow until the claims against the executor were resolved. In total, the executor owed $15,050 in back rent, $11,299 for additional expenses and $15,000 plus interest for the stolen cash. Those amounts were to be withdrawn from the escrow account. 

The executor disputed the outcome and argued that allowing the claims to be asserted against the proceeds of his mother’s homestead violated Iowa Code §561.19 which provides that “where the homestead descends to the issue of either spouse the homestead shall be held exempt from any antecedent debts of the issue’s parents or antecedent debts of the issue…” However, the trial court found that the estate correctly computed the costs against the executor and ordered that the remaining issues preventing the estate from being closed had been resolved. 

The executor appealed the trial court’s ruling and the Iowa Court of Appeals first addressed the issue of whether the sale of his mother’s homestead should be exempt from his debts because it was homestead property.  However, the court found that the trial court had already resolved this issue.  The executor was present at and received notice of all hearings and court orders and did not appeal from those orders within 30 days of the entry of the order, as required by the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure.  The ex-executor filed a complaint eight years later.

The appellate court also found that the rent due for the property of the estate was correctly calculated by the new executor. The former executor occupied the property and never compensated the estate for his occupancy.  Thus, he was liable for the rent and other payments. In re Estate of Miller, No. 0-546/09-1289 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 20, 2010).