Iowa Court of Appeals Affirms Probate Court Decision Dismissing Trust Contest

The Iowa Court of Appeals affirms the Iowa District Court for Webster County’s order denying a petitioner’s claims related to a trust contest. The petitioner could not prove a lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence and therefore lacked a basis to change the estate plan. In Randall L. Durschmidt Revocable Trust v. Durschmidt (Ct. App. Iowa, Case No. 22-0102, October 5, 2022).

In May 2021, Kristi Lee Durschmidt filed an objection to the estate plan and trust of her father, Randall L. Durschmidt. The probate court held a trial in December 2021. It considered whether Randall lacked testamentary capacity when he made changes to his trust in 2019 and if it should be revoked; whether his sister and youngest daughter had exerted undue influence over him; whether an IRA distribution should be set aside and whether Ms. Durschmidt’s share should be distributed directly to her, rather than through the revocable trust. The probate court denied all of Ms. Durschmidt’s claims. She appealed.

The Court of Appeals finds that Ms. Durschmidt has the burden to prove her father lacked testamentary capacity, but has failed to do so. Furthermore, her father’s doctor testified at the trial that he had no concerns regarding Mr. Durschmidt’s cognitive state, that he could recite all his medications without mistake, and always came prepared for each appointment. Ms. Durschmidt presented no evidence to the contrary regarding her father’s mental fitness.

The Court of Appeals also finds that Ms. Durschmidt failed to prove that Mr. Durschmidt’s sister or youngest daughter exerted undue influence against him. Ms. Durschmidt’s mere suspicion of undue influence and lack of evidence that her father’s competence was in decline does not support a finding of undue influence. The probate court’s dismissal of Ms. Durschmidt’s claims is affirmed.

Read the full text of this decision.