Following a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court issued June 12, 2020 in the Estate of Youngblut, cheated heirs now need to be aware of some very short deadlines to bring a claim. BE AWARE.

Will Contests Generally

If someone wants to contest a will, there are two main grounds to do so: (1) lack of capacity or (2) undue influence.  Such claims must be brought at the later of: (a) four months after the 2nd publication of notice in the newspaper, or (b) one month after being mailed notice to the person.  As a result, potentially within a few months after someone passes you have to determine what your rights are under the will, determine if there was any “funny business”, secure a lawyer, have the lawyer investigate and then file the contest.  Don’t waste time is the basic rule.  Otherwise, you snooze you lose.

1978 Recognition of Tortious Interference with Inheritance in Iowa

Following a case from about 40 years ago, the Iowa Supreme Court allowed a claim of intentional interference with inheritance, sometimes called tortious interference with inheritance separate from a will contest.  In the Frohwein case from 1978, a plaintiff missed the filing deadline to contest the will.  While it was after the will contest period, the Iowa Supreme Court allowed the plaintiff to bring this newly recognized claim against the individuals that interfered with their inheritance.  This claim was allowed to proceed separate from a potential undue influence claim.  Since that point, plaintiffs (including those that I have represented) have filed these types of claims at a different points after the will contest period.  I’ll save the specifics for the claim for a future post.

New Deadline in Iowa for Tortious Interference Claims

In Youngblut‘s ruling from last week, one of the sons chose not to contest the will, but decided (after the claims period but during the estate administration) to bring a tortious interference claim.  This 2020 Iowa Supreme Court reversed 40 years of Iowa law and is now establishing the law in Iowa that you must bring the claim for tortious interference during the will contest period and join with the undue influence claim.  Unfortunately, this puts a serious time crunch on a plaintiff to (1) determine what the will provides (2) determine if there was potential wrong-doing; (3) identify legal counsel; and (4) have counsel do enough investigation to determine if there are legal grounds to make the claim.

There are a few other exceptions to this new rule.  For example, sometimes claims are base on other wrongful actions.  Getting someone to change the beneficiary of an insurance policy, for example. Cases like those are separate from a will contest claim and presumably would not be tied to the will contest.

Some other states are declining to recognize this tort.  It appears that the Iowa Supreme Court is wanting to limit these types of claims.  For now, they are viable but it is more important now to not wait to start the lawsuit.

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