IRA Not Available as Probate Asset, IA High Court Holds

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: probate.

In the matter of the estate of Joseph C. Gantner, III. IA probate

In this case, the Iowa Supreme Court construed Iowa Code 633D.8.

Joseph Gantner died on December 10, 2015, and was survived by his wife Rachel, along with two daughters. His will and trusts left most of his estate to his daughters. The will was admitted to probate in Linn County, and the wife filed for an elective share and also requested a spousal support allowance of $4000 per month. The daughters resisted the motion, and also argued that Joseph's retirement accounts were not part of the estate. They also submitted a prenuptial agreement under which the wife had purported to waive spousal support rights.

Since the only asset available to satisfy the spousal support claim was the retirement account, the main attention was focused on that account. The wife argued that the retirement account had been transferred from the estate, thus invoking section 633D.8. The wife argued that even though the retirement account itself might have been a non-probate asset, the transfer of securities was regulated by 633D.8.

The court first held that an interest in an IRA is not a "security" within the meaning of the statute, even though it might contain securities. Reading the statute as a whole, the court held that it did not apply to an IRA. Therefore, the account was a non-probate asset. Therefore, it was not available to satisfy the spousal allowance claim.

No. 16-1028 (Iowa Apr. 21, 2017).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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