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On August 3, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals settled a boundary dispute between two neighboring family members. Because neither party established their allegations of boundary by acquiescence or easement by prescription, the court affirmed the denial of their claims.

On August 17, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that two sisters could not have interfered with their brother’s alleged contract with their parents to become the sole owner of an 80-acre parcel of farmland. The brother claimed to have an oral contract with their mother. Because the farmland was owned by the siblings’ father, the brother did not have a contract with the owner of the property.

On August 24, 2022, IRS issued broad penalty relief to most taxpayers who filed 2019 and 2020 returns late. The relief, provided in IRS Notice 2022-36, applies to failure to file (not failure to pay) penalties, as well as some late information return penalties. For the most part, the relief is automatic.

As production costs continue to rise, farmland owners and tenants may be reconsidering the terms of their farm leases. Both tenants and landlords should be aware of Iowa’s farm lease auto-renewal statute.

On August 23, 2022, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) announced that the court-appointed receiver for B & B Farm Store Inc., a grain dealer and warehouse operator from Jesup, Iowa, had consented to a voluntary revocation of its Iowa warehouse and grain dealer l

August 14, 2022 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Update: President Biden signed this bill into law on August 16, 2022.

On August 3, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that the plaintiff failed to prove that his sibling exercised undue influence over their father. For personal reasons, a farmer intentionally left two of his three children out of his will and trust. The court concluded that it was unlikely the farmer was susceptible to coercion; thus, no undue influence occurred.

On July 20, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a $960,000 jury verdict against a swine management company and its owner. A group of farmers began a business venture with the management company to purchase, feed, and sell pigs. The business was financially unsuccessful. The investor-farmers brought this lawsuit against the management company and its owner alleging breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty.

August 2, 2022 | Kitt Tovar Jensen

On July 20, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a petition to void the transfer of a farm. A farmer filed for divorce five months after the couple gifted two-thirds of their farm operation to their son. His ex-spouse brought this lawsuit for fraudulent misrepresentation and sought to void the farm transfer. The Court of Appeals concluded that the circumstances surrounding the farm transfer did not indicate an intent to defraud, but instead supported a finding that the farmer desired to keep the farming operation in the family.

On July 20, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that the statute of limitations to set aside a trust established by a decedent during his lifetime cannot be tolled using the discovery rule. The applicable statute, Iowa Code § 633A.3108, unambiguously states that any such claim must be brought within one year of death. The court found, however, that a claim of equitable estoppel could extend the statute of limitations if the petition was filed within a reasonable time after alleged fraud was discovered. The court ruled that it was for a fact finder to decide whether that happened.

On July 20, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a petition asking for a writ of mandamus to compel the Madison County Board of Supervisors to destroy noxious weeds on a neighbor’s land. While the county Weed Commissioner can destroy the weeds and charge the expense to the landowner, that is not the exclusive remedy available for a landowner’s noxious weed violation. Instead, a county weed commissioner can work with a landowner over extended periods of time to address noxious weed violations. The Court further reasoned that a writ of mandamus is an inappropriate legal remedy in this circumstance since the landowner could file a nuisance lawsuit against the neighbor.  

July 29, 2022 | Kitt Tovar Jensen

On July 20, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that a farmland owner’s Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filing listing a farm tenant’s crops as collateral did not constitute “tortious conduct.” The farm tenant claimed that the UCC financing statement was false and interfered with his ability to obtain a loan after the lease terminated. The court disagreed with the tenant, instead finding that there was no genuine issue of material fact that the filing was false or that it caused the tenant’s injuries.

On June 29, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a negligence lawsuit against a title company. The title company prepared an abstract for a sale of land, but failed to identify a sewer easement. Although the title company made an error, the Court of Appeals held that this mistake was not the proximate cause of the buyer’s alleged injury.

On June 15, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals determined the primary beneficiary of a $3.5 million individual retirement account (IRA). Before passing away, the decedent opened an IRA and executed a beneficiary designation form. The court affirmed that the form was not ambiguous and clearly showed the decedent’s intent to name his wife as the primary beneficiary of the IRA.

On July 20, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that a surviving spouse inherited one-half of the deceased spouse’s interest in real property as well as the proportional share of the mortgage. The court held that the probate code does not give a surviving spouse a special privilege to inherit an unencumbered homestead at the expense of the other beneficiaries.

On June 29, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion involving a partition action and the subsequent assessment of attorney fees and costs. After three siblings filed a petition seeking a partition in kind against their other two siblings, the five siblings agreed to a partition in kind for the “heirs property” they owned as tenants in common. See Iowa Code § 651.1(5). Because the division was equitable and practicable, the Court of Appeals affirmed the referee’s recommendation. However, the court held that the district court erred in taxing all costs against the defendants.

July 10, 2022 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On June 30, 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, overruled 18-year-old precedent to find that Iowa’s right to farm statute, Iowa Code § 657.11, does not violate the inalienable rights clause of the Iowa Constitution. This decision generally restores statutory immunity from nuisance lawsuits seeking special damages for many animal feeding operations.

June 1, 2022 | Tax Implications of a Farmland Lease

On June 24, 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed that allowing the public to use an easement does not establish a public dedication. A landowner granted a written access easement to his family members and invitees. Because there was clear evidence the landowner did not intend to dedicate the easement, the Court affirmed that the driveway was not for public use.

On June 17, 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed that the ten-day deadline to post a notice of commencement of work applies to general contractors, not subcontractors. See Iowa Code § 572.13A. After a developer defaulted on a residential project, the bank initiated a foreclosure action claiming to have priority over the mechanics’ liens filed by two subcontractors on the property. Considering the statute as whole, the Court concluded that the subcontractors properly filed the required notices and, thus, had priority over the bank’s mortgages.

On June 15, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment in a drainage dispute in favor of the City of Council Bluffs, the owner of the dominant estate. A couple alleged that improvements on the city property caused erosion and flood damage to the couple’s two servient properties. The court held that the express drainage easement only governed one property. Additionally, the statute of limitations did not bar the plaintiffs’ nuisance claim because the alleged offense was continuous rather permanent. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the city and remanded the action for further proceedings.

On May 6, 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court held that all claims involving administration of an estate must be asserted during the probate proceedings. A beneficiary of a will disputed the fees awarded to the personal representative of the estate. After the probate court reduced the fees awarded, the beneficiary initiated a separate lawsuit seeking damages. Because all estate administration disputes must first be raised during the probate proceedings, the Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the personal representative.

President Biden signed the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 117-43) into law on September 30, 2021. It authorized $10 billion to assist agricultural producers impacted by wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms, and other eligible disasters experienced during calendar years 2020 and 2021. The USDA has determined that the money will be funding two new programs, the Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP) and the Emergency Relief Program (ERP).

On May 6, 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed that a drainage district improperly reclassified the benefits of a drainage tile repair project. A reclassification commission assessed the benefits conferred upon the railroad company at 100 percent because compliance with federal railroad safety regulations essentially doubled the cost of the project. The Court determined that only the benefit of the drainage repair project, not its cost, could be considered during reclassification.

On May 6, 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed that court approval is required to modify an irrevocable trust once one of the settlors has died. After one spouse passed away, a couple’s joint trust became irrevocable. The surviving spouse attempted to modify the trust by obtaining the written consent of all the trust beneficiaries. The Court ruled that the amendment was invalid because irrevocable trusts may be modified by either obtaining the consent of all the settlors and beneficiaries or by obtaining court approval. Iowa Code § 633A.2202-.2203. Here, because one of the settlors had died, she could not provide her consent, and court approval was required.

On May 19th, 2021, Governor Reynolds signed SF 356 into law establishing the “Iowa Agricultural Tourism Promotion Act.” See Iowa Code § 673A et seq. Agricultural tourism is a growing industry in Iowa. In 2017, Iowa had 350 agri-tourism operations, an increase from 275 in 2012.

Photo with gavel, file folder, clock and money surrounding the word Probate spelled in wooden blocks
May 10, 2022 | By Jennifer Harrington

Probate is a court-supervised process for transferring assets after death. While the term “probate” often describes the process by which the court administers a will, probate may be required for those who die without a will as well. The probate process seeks to ensure an orderly transfer of assets, all the while protecting the rights of creditors and heirs.

May 3, 2022 | Jennifer Harrington

When someone dies with a will, a surviving family member or other person close to the decedent must ensure that the decedent’s wishes specified in the will are followed. This usually requires the will to be “probated” or submitted to and administered by the court in the jurisdiction where the decedent lived.

When someone dies, another individual will need to handle the affairs of the deceased individual.

On April 27, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals determined that the district court’s grant of summary judgment was not appropriate because genuine issues of material facts existed in a case involving the priority of competing perfected security interests and agricultural-supply-dealer liens. After a dairy operation liquidated its assets, there were insufficient proceeds to satisfy all claims against the farm. A financial institution and a feed dealer each claimed to have priority to these proceeds. Because the record did not adequately provide the facts necessary to resolve the dispute under Iowa Code chapters 554 and 570A, the court denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

On April 13, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that two plaintiffs established a boundary by acquiescence. The plaintiffs and their predecessors openly used a twenty-foot-wide strip of land between a fence on the adjoining property and the true boundary line for at least a ten-year period. The Court of Appeals found that the neighboring landowners were on notice that the plaintiffs used the disputed property; therefore, they consented to the fence as the boundary line.

On March 2, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s award of three parcels of farmland to a former husband through a divorce decree. The farmland was distributed from partnership interests the husband’s parents had gifted him during the marriage. The former wife argued on appeal that the real estate was marital property because the partnership interests were compensation for the work the husband did for the family farm business. The court of appeals disagreed. The court did agree, however, that the wife was entitled to a larger alimony award.

Many people wishing to streamline the administration of their estates at death choose to create revocable living trusts.This checklist provides an overview of the trust administration process.

April 5, 2022 | Jennifer Harrington

Most people die owning a vehicle, but fewer individuals know what to do with the car once a loved one passes. This guide reviews the basics. It explains the procedures under Iowa law, but those from other states may learn from the general conce

April 5, 2022 | Jennifer Harrington

Typically, there is no need to contact lawyer immediately after the passing of a loved one.[i] Instead, this is the time to focus on family needs and the disposition of the body. This checklist explains what should be done in the first weeks following a death until the death certificate is issued.

March 24, 2022 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On March 22, 2022, the Director of the Iowa Department of Revenue joined the IRS in granting estimated tax penalty relief to qualifying farmers who did not file their 2021 returns and pay their taxes by March 1, 2022. In Order 2022-1, Iowa waives the underpayment of estimated tax penalty for any qualifying farmer who files their 2021 Iowa income tax return and remits payment by May 2, 2022.

Iowa Code chapter 717A, sometimes referred to as Iowa’s “ag-gag” law, is once again the subject of federal litigation. On March 14, 2022, a federal judge from the Southern District of Iowa found the 2019 version of the law unconstitutional. Iowa Code § 717A.3B provides criminal penalties for those who, intending to harm an agricultural production facility, use deception to gain access to or employment with that facility. The judge held that the statute violated the First Amendment. Accordingly, she granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment.

On March 3, IRS announced that it would be providing limited penalty relief for qualified farmers required to file Form 7203, S Corporation Shareholder Stock and Debt Basis Limitations.

On March 2, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a district court decision finding that the transfer of a joint tenant’s interest in real property into a trust severed the joint tenancy.

On March 4, 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court held that a manager of an LLC was not entitled to attorney fees incurred defending himself against claims brought by the LLC or prosecuting claims against the LLC. A manager of an LLC may recover costs incurred “in the course of the member’s or manager’s activities on behalf of the company.” Iowa Code § 489.408(1). Because the manager incurred costs litigating against the LLC, the Supreme Court reversed the district court and Court of Appeals rulings and held that the statute did not require the company to indemnify the manager.

March 5, 2022 | Jennifer Harrington

This article answers common questions that may arise during the estate and transition planning process.

March 3, 2022 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On March 1, 2022, Governor Kim Reynolds signed HF 2317 into law. The new tax law will reduce individual and corporate income tax rates, provide exemptions from Iowa tax for certain forms of retirement income--including retired farmer rental income--and scale back certain tax credits. 

On January 27, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned a district court’s award of punitive damages in a conversion claim. On summary judgment, the trial court found that the defendants acted with malice towards the plaintiff when they refused to return a skid loader that was located on recently foreclosed property after the owner of the skid loader demanded its return. The Court of Appeals, in a split decision, overturned the portion of the judgment awarding punitive damages.

On January 12, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that a premarital agreement prevented the surviving spouse from taking the statutory elective share against the deceased spouse’s estate. Although the premarital agreement did not specifically list the deceased spouse’s century farm as an asset, it still provided the surviving spouse “fair and reasonable disclosure” of his financial conditions. Therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

February 27, 2022 | Guido van der Hoeven

This Interactive resource explains and provides examples for each line of the farmer's primary tax form, IRS Schedule F, Profit or Loss from Farming.

February 27, 2022 | Jennifer Harrington

“Heirs’ Property” generally refers to family owned property inherited by multiple generations without the formal legal proceedings necessary to prove ownership. Without probate proceedings at an owner’s death, heirs may possess the property, but they lack the clear title necessary to prove their ownership status. This means they may not be able to sell the property, use the property as collateral for financing, or receive USDA benefits for farming activities conducted on the property.

On January 27, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a jury award in an eminent domain proceeding. In 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court held that the condemnation of farmland for the Dakota Access pipeline was constitutional. Because the landowner did not show that the district court abused its discretion when it excluded certain evidence allegedly impacting the value of the property after the taking, the court affirmed there were no grounds for a new trial.

 

On January 12, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that a group of landowners did not follow the required statutory appeal route to challenge a drainage assessment. After a county drainage district assessed the cost of a failed annexation against landowners in the district, the landowners filed a petition for declaratory judgment. Because the landowners did not file an appeal as required under Iowa Code section 468.83(1), the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the landowners’ petition for failure to state a claim.

January 10, 2022 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Potential tax changes dominated most 2021 tax discussions. Proposals such as the American Families Plan sought to significantly increase the capital gains tax rate and require recognition of capital gain at death or at gift.  A later House of Representatives proposal sought to increase the capital gains tax rate and cut the estate and gift tax exemption in half in 2022.

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