Brother Prevails on Intentional Interference with Inheritance Claim
The Iowa Court of Appeals recently upheld a jury verdict awarding a brother more than $1.5 million in damages against his two sisters. The court found that substantial evidence supported the jury’s finding that the sisters exerted undue influence over their father, causing him to execute a will that disinherited the brother. The court agreed that the evidence supported a finding that the sisters had tortiously interfered with the brother’s inheritance. Finally, the court upheld the jury’s finding that the brother was entitled to punitive damages.
The case presents another sad tale of family discord leading to litigation. The brother farmed with his father for most of his adult life. The sisters, who grew up on the farm, married and moved elsewhere. In 1997, the parents executed a revocable living trust under which the brother and one of the sisters were to ultimately split the parents’ assets. The other sister had disclaimed any share in the trust at that time, believing that she was “sufficiently provided for by her husband.”
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Polk County District Court Rejects Landowners' Eminent Domain Challenge
A Polk County District Court judge has ruled that the Iowa Utilities Board properly acted within its discretion in determining that the Dakota Access pipeline would promote the “public convenience and necessity.” The court also found that the Board had statutory authority to grant Dakota Access eminent domain over impacted parcels of agricultural land. The ruling was in response to four petitions for judicial review filed with the court following the Board’s decision to grant a hazardous pipeline permit to Dakota Access. Landowners filed three of those petitions, and the Sierra Club filed the other.
Two main questions were at issue in this case: did the Board properly conclude that the Dakota Access pipeline would promote the "public convenience and necessity," and did Iowa law restrict the use of eminent domain with respect to the agricultural land at issue in this case?
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New Farm Year Begins March 1
March 1 is upon us, which means that farmers who do not pay estimated taxes must file their federal returns. It also means that a new crop year begins in Iowa. Farm landlords have 20 days to file a UCC-1 to perfect their landlord's lien on the tenant's crops. For more information, please see page seven of our publication, Iowa Farm Leases: A Legal Review.
Become a Certified Farm Succession Coordinator
The International Farm Transition Network and Drake University Law School are offering a Farm Succession Coordinator Certification Training on April 24-26th at the Drake University Legal Clinic in Des Moines, Iowa. This training is for individuals interested in becoming a Certified Farm Succession Coordinator. This program is offered to lawyers, agricultural professionals, service providers, educators, and organizational leaders who work with farm businesses on succession issues. For more information or to register, click here.
In a 4-3 decision on February 24, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a 69-year-old woman was a “vulnerable elder” under Iowa’s Elder Abuse statute solely because of her age.
The case arose because a “do-it-yourself” estate planning strategy went awry. The mother put the title of her mobile home (where she lived) in her adult son’s name. She told him that when she died it was to be his inheritance. She continued to live in the mobile home and pay taxes on it. At the same time, the mother transferred title of a duplex she owned to her two daughters.
At some point, one of the mother’s daughters moved into the mobile home with her. At this point, the son demanded $35,000 from his mother to transfer title of the mobile home back to her. When she refused, the son attempted to evict the mother.
In response, the mother filed a "petition for relief from elder abuse" against the son. The petition was filed under Iowa Code § 235F.2, which was enacted by the Iowa Legislature in 2014 to provide greater protection against financial and physical abuse to “vulnerable elders.” “Vulnerable elder” is defined in Iowa Code § 235F.1(17) as “a person sixty years of age or older who is unable to protect himself or herself from elder abuse as a result of age or a mental or physical condition.”
It is this definition that the Iowa Supreme Court agreed to interpret. Continue reading here.
HSB134 passed out of an Iowa House agricultural subcommittee on February 22. The bill would limit allowable damages in nuisance lawsuits filed against animal feeding operations that have used “existing prudent and generally utilized management practices reasonable” for their operations. The bill would also allow animal feeding operations that prevail in a nuisance lawsuit brought against them to recover reasonable attorney fees from the losing plaintiff.
The bill requires plaintiffs in a nuisance action to prove one of two things to exempt their lawsuit from the damages limits: (1) The animal feeding operation failed to comply with state or federal laws, rules, or regulations applying to animal feeding operations OR (2) The animal feeding operation failed to use existing prudent generally utilized management practices reasonable for the operation.
If the plaintiff is unable to prove an exception, damages to a prevailing plaintiff would be limited to:
- Diminution in fair market value of the plaintiff’s share of property caused by the animal feeding operation.
- Compensatory damages for past, present, and future adverse health conditions, using “only objective and documented medical evidence that the nuisance or interference with the comfortable use and enjoyment of the person’s life or property was the proximate cause of the person’s adverse health condition.” AND
- “Special damages” stemming from “annoyance and the loss of comfortable use and enjoyment of real property,” not to exceed 1.5 times the amount of damages awarded in categories one and two above.
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In a filing February 13, the parties to the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit—the Board of Water Works Trustees and the drainage districts—again showed they are miles apart in their interpretation of the law. This time, the difference is in how they interpret the answers by the Iowa Supreme Court to four certified questions posed to the Court by the federal district court hearing the case.
As we’ve detailed, the January 27, 2017, opinion from the Iowa Supreme Court closed the door to DMWW’s common law claims for money damages. The Court ruled that drainage districts, because of their limited powers and duties, can only be sued in mandamus to perform specific actions authorized by the Iowa Code. After receiving the Iowa Supreme Court opinion, Judge Strand, the federal judge assigned to hear this case in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, directed the parties to file a joint status report detailing their positions as to the status of the case. In other words, what impact does the Iowa Supreme Court’s opinion have on the case moving forward? Not surprisingly, the parties' joint status report reveals big differences as to the parties’ positions.
Continue reading here.
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WOTUS Repeal Begins
There's a lot going on in Washington, D.C. these days. It appears that Congress will be debating Affordable Care Act repeal and replacement legislation soon. House Speaker Ryan has said that tax reform will follow shortly. President Trump has also been issuing executive orders to begin implementing his regulatory reform agenda. Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the EPA to prepare for public notice and comment a proposed rule to rescind or revise the Clean Water Rule. The Order says that officials should consider incorporating into any new rulemaking the definition of "navigable waters" suggested by Justice Scalia in Rapanos. We'll keep you posted on this and other developments on our website as they unfold.
Iowa Guidance on Non-Conformity
Because the Iowa Legislature has not chosen to conform Iowa tax law with current federal tax law, a number of federal tax breaks are unavailable on Iowa 2016 returns. Iowa law continues to point to the Internal Revenue Code as it existed on January 1, 2015. This has caused headaches for Iowa tax preparers and software companies alike, particularly with respect to the Section 179 deduction, which is $25,000 in Iowa, as opposed to $500,000. Last week, the Iowa Department of Revenue issued its latest informational guidance for preparers navigating this new territory. Some additional guidance may be coming soon, particularly with respect to entity returns.
Where's My Iowa Refund?
Because of new Iowa Department of Revenue efforts to reduce identity theft and tax refund fraud, many Iowa taxpayers are experiencing significant delays in receiving refunds. IDOR has provided this explanation:
We are more committed than ever to helping you prevent identity theft and tax refund fraud. The safety of your information is our number one priority. As a result, the income tax refund process will look a little different this year.
- Your refund may take longer. IDR is committed to combatting identity theft and tax refund fraud. We have robust fraud engines built into our processing systems and we are dedicating more time to verifying the validity of tax refund claims before issuing refunds. The extra time taken helps ensure the right person gets the right refund and criminals don’t pocket Iowa taxpayers’ money.
- You may get correspondence from us. Part of our verification process may require an examiner to reach out to you. If you do receive correspondence, contact the examiner listed as soon as possible to expedite the process.
- EITC refunds will not be paid until early March. Beginning in 2017, a new federal law requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) until mid-February. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the IRS more time to help detect and prevent fraud. IDR will also take time to apply its own fraud checks to EITC refund claims. As a result, it will likely be the beginning of March before EITC refunds are issued.
Beginning Tax Professional Course (May 11-12) (Details Soon!)
The Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation does not provide legal advice. Any information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for legal services from a competent professional. The Center's work is supported by fee-based seminars and generous private gifts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material contained on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of Iowa State University.