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With unclear terms and intentions, two parties attempted to negotiate the sale of a farm property. After both vacillated between moving forward and rescinding the agreement, the seller and the buyer petitioned the court for specific performance of the sale. On March 8, 2023, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s order of specific performance finding that the seller did not abandon his specific-performance claim.

April 28, 2023 | Jennifer Harrington

The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed that a lessee could exercise their renewal option under the rental contract by only giving written notice even though a later paragraph stated that the rental payment would be due when the renewal option was exercised. The court found that the structure of the agreement and renewal option paragraph made the rental payment a term of performance, not a condition precedent to exercising the renewal option.

The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the probate court’s allocation of attorney fees and court costs arising from litigation under which the trust received a $159,250 settlement. Pointing to a clause in the trust document stating that “administrative costs” were to be paid from the income generated by the trust, the trust’s remainder beneficiaries argued that the expenses should be paid solely from the trust income.

The Iowa Court of Appeals examined the distribution of property during a divorce where one spouse had used inherited and gifted property to fund the purchase and repay debts associated with the marital home and farmland. The Court of Appeals determined that the funds used on the farmland were exempted from the property division, and ordered the contributed amounts returned to the spouse. The funds used to purchase the marital home were not exempted from the marital property division.  

The Iowa Court of Appeals examined the distribution of farmland property during a divorce when a premarital agreement waived “any right or interest in the real property of the other,” and the wife argued that marital assets were used to pay down debt on the property.  The court held that the premarital agreement precluded the spouse from receiving credit for any debt payments. The spouse’s request for credit amounted to a claim of interest in the property and she had waived her right to bring this claim in the premarital agreement.

April 11, 2023 | Jennifer Harrington

The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of two neighboring landowners’ claims against each other in a water drainage dispute. For many years, the neighbors had argued about the proper flow of water, eventually using self-help techniques to control the water. The court found that the water flow prior to the self-help techniques determined the appropriate burdens between the parcels. However, it could not order injunctive relief for the dominant parcel because the trial court did not rule on that neighbor’s claim for injunctive relief.

The decedent passed away intestate in Belize. He owned real estate in both Polk County and Belize, several financial accounts, and a life insurance policy. The decedent’s adult daughter petitioned to open an estate in Polk County. His surviving spouse, who is not related to his daughter, filed a motion to dismiss the petition claiming that the decedent had lived in Belize for many years before his death and, as a result, the probate court lacked jurisdiction.

In a recent case, the Iowa Supreme Court considered whether Iowa’s tax-sale redemption notice procedures violated a landowner’s due process rights. The landowner argued that the law was unconstitutional because it did not require personal service, only notice by mail. The Court ruled that due process does not guarantee a property owner actual notice before the government takes the property. Instead, the landowner is entitled to a method of service “reasonably calculated” to provide timely notice.

March 7, 2023 | Kristine A. Tidgren

A recent case from the Iowa Supreme Court highlights the importance of carefully completing and reviewing beneficiary designations for IRAs and other retirement accounts.

January 29, 2023 | Kristine A. Tidgren

In a January 27, 2023, opinion, the Iowa Supreme Court found that a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship was converted to a tenancy in common when one of the owners transferred her undivided interest to a revocable living trust.

On January 9, 2023, the Tax Court found that a ranch-owning couple was entitled to $421,503 in deductions over three years for expenses claimed on their Schedule F, even though they had sold most cattle associated within a few months after the purchase of the property. The IRS had also assessed § 6662(a) accuracy-related penalties for the years, but those were not upheld since the Court determined the taxpayers were entitled to the deductions.  

On January 25, 2023, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order denying damages stemming from a replevin action of farm equipment. After determining that the plaintiffs were the rightful owners, the district court denied the plaintiffs’ request for damages reasoning that the defendant was justified in holding onto the equipment. Although the defendants reasonably claimed to be the rightful owner, the court ultimately determined they were not. Therefore, the plaintiffs were entitled to damages for the illegal detention of the equipment. Iowa Code § 643.17.

January 16, 2023 | Kristine A. Tidgren

As the 2023 filing season begins, taxpayers and their preparers must sort through new guidance and rules to determine their requirements for the 2022 tax year. This post details 10 key considerations for these returns.

January 13, 2023 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Agricultural supply dealer liens—intended to encourage suppliers to provide necessary feed and supplies to agricultural producers—can be difficult to enforce. An opinion issued by the Iowa Supreme Court today illustrates some of the complexity of this remedy. Quality Plus Feeds, Inc. v.

The memorandum can be found here.

January 10, 2023 | Kristine A. Tidgren and Jennifer Harrington

Hunting ground is a precious commodity in Iowa. Hunters often approach landowners looking for ground to hunt. Whether to grant such permission and to whom to grant that permission is a complex decision. This article was originally written in June 2014, and updated in January 2023.

On December 16, 2022, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied an appeal claiming that the state’s Right to Farm Act was unconstitutional. Previously, the North Carolina Court of Appeals had granted the State’s motion to dismiss under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6). Rural Empowerment Ass’n for Cmty. Help v. North Carolina, 2021 WL 6014722 (N.C. App. Dec. 21, 2021).

On November 2, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that a niece who added herself to her aunt’s bank accounts failed to rebut the presumption of undue influence. A transfer from a grantor to their fiduciary is presumptively fraudulent. To refute this, the niece had the burden to show 1) that she acted in good faith and 2) that her aunt acted voluntarily. Because the niece instead presented evidence that undue influence was not established, she failed to meet this burden.

December 21, 2022 | Jennifer Harrington

On December 21, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s finding that the plaintiffs failed to prove ownership of property under the legal theories of boundary by acquiescence or adverse possession. The plaintiffs claimed that a longstanding fence established the property line, but the court found that was insufficient proof that the fence was a known boundary in a definite location. The plaintiffs’ claim of adverse possession failed because their use of the property was not hostile or under a claim of right. The defendants retained title to the disputed property.  

On December 5, 2022, the United States Tax Court found that a farmer who had purchased 29 used tractors over the course of three years did purchase the tractors for legitimate business purposes. Consequently, the farmer’s IRC §179 expense deduction for those tractors was upheld. The taxpayer was also able to substantiate that the majority, but not all, of his pickup trucks were “qualified nonpersonal use vehicles” as defined under IRC §247(i). The Tax Court eliminated most of the accuracy related penalty assessed by IRS under §6662.

On November 2, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that a sheriff’s sale should not be set aside for failure to record the sheriff’s deed within the statutory time period. See Iowa Code § 654.16A. The purpose of Iowa Code § 654.16A(1) is to give the debtor notice of his right of first refusal. The court held that the debtor did not suffer prejudice because the deed was not recorded in a timely manner and that there was no statutory authority to set aside the sale.

November 15, 2022 | Kristine Tidgren

Three companies are seeking to build carbon capture pipelines across Iowa. The goal of the projects is to capture carbon dioxide from ethanol plants, fertilizer plants, and other industrial agricultural plants to prevent greenhouse gas from escaping into the environment. The projects each propose liquefying the carbon dioxide and transporting it through underground pipelines to secure, permanent storage facilities in remote sites.

On October 19, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the discount rate for transactional costs in a farm corporation buyout. After the Iowa Supreme Court held that transaction costs for asset liquidation should be included in the valuation, it remanded the case to the district court to determine and apply the appropriate discount rate. Guge v. Kassel Enterprises, Inc., 962 N.W.2d 764 (Iowa Sup. Ct. 2021). Here, the district court followed the Supreme Court’s remand order and conducted a credibility assessment of the parties’ expert witnesses to find the appropriate discount.

On October 18, 2022, the USDA announced that it had already provided nearly $800 million in assistance to distressed borrowers to help cure delinquencies and resolve uncollectable farm loan debts.

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard law requires all bioengineered food to disclose its bioengineered status to consumers through “text, symbol, or electronic or digital link.” 7 U.S.C. § 1639b(b)(2)(D). The USDA, through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), promulgated the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard rule in 2018 .A group of retail stores and food advocacy groups brought suit in the Northern District of California claiming that the regulations violated the Administrative Procedure Act. A federal judge agreed and found that the USDA failed to comply with the disclosure statute’s directive to “provide additional and comparable options” to ensure that consumers could access the electronic disclosure.

On October 5, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a petition contesting the distribution of trust assets. After her father passed away, a beneficiary brought a lawsuit claiming that her father lacked testamentary capacity and that the trustees had exerted undue influence over him. Because the beneficiary only provided “suspicion and surmise,” the court affirmed that she failed to meet the burden to establish either claim.

On October 5, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the division of two properties between a farmer and his two sisters. Relying on the factors set forth in Iowa Code § 651.31, the farmer claimed he would experience “great prejudice” if he was not awarded both farms. However, the court must only consider these factors when weighing the whether the presumption of a partition in kind is equitable. After the court orders a partition in kind, “the proceedings shall be governed by the procedures set forth in subchapter II that are applicable to a partition in kind.” Iowa Code § 651.32.

On September 26, 2022, a federal judge in the Southern District of Iowa again found an Iowa farm trespass law to be unconstitutional. Under Iowa Code § 727.8A (the “Trespass Surveillance law”), anyone who trespasses and “knowingly places or uses a camera or electronic surveillance device that transmits or records images or data while the device is on the trespassed property” is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor. This is Iowa’s third farm fraud and trespass law found to be in violation of the First Amendment by this court.

On August 31, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals held that a creditor cannot collect distributions from a spendthrift trust until the funds are in the beneficiary’s control. A creditor attempted to garnish funds of two spendthrift trusts which were being held by a trustee for the debtor’s benefit. The district court denied the debtor’s motion to quash the garnishment. Because the debtor had not yet received the distributions, the Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order.

On August 31, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a motion for a new trial in an erosion lawsuit. Landowners claimed that their neighbor’s construction caused erosion damage on their farmland. Because there was sufficient evidence that the landowners’ failure to maintain the waterway contributed to the damage, the court affirmed the denial. 

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.