Strong v. Wood, No. 65333

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtConsidered by REYNOLDSON; LARSON
Citation306 N.W.2d 737
PartiesRuby STRONG, Appellant, v. Naomi Strong WOOD and Carol Strong Shimon, as Administrators of the Estate of P. L. Strong, deceased, Dean L. Strong, Naomi Strong Wood and Carol Strong Shimon, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 65333
Decision Date17 June 1981

Page 737

306 N.W.2d 737
Ruby STRONG, Appellant,
v.
Naomi Strong WOOD and Carol Strong Shimon, as Administrators of the Estate of P. L. Strong, deceased, Dean L. Strong, Naomi Strong Wood and Carol Strong Shimon, Appellees.
No. 65333.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
June 17, 1981.

Charles A. Gunderson, Rolfe, for appellant.

J. Desmond Crotty, of Crotty & Fitzgerald, Pocahontas, for appellees.

Considered by REYNOLDSON, C. J., and UHLENHOPP, HARRIS, ALLBEE, and LARSON, JJ.

LARSON, Justice.

Sometime in 1976 Philander L. ("Mike") Strong and the plaintiff, then Ruby Esterley, became acquainted. At that time Mike was a 76-year-old widowed farmer who had lived by himself in rural Pocahontas County since the death of his wife Velma in 1968; Ruby was a 66-year-old widow living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their relationship progressed to the point where Mike proposed to her in October, 1976; Ruby, however, did not "make up her mind" to marry him until December, 1976.

In late November and early December, 1976, Mike vacationed in Hawaii. When he returned to Iowa before the Christmas holidays

Page 738

he wrote to Ruby saying that he was "looking forward to the day we are going to be married. I can't wait much longer .... I'll be glad when we can live together all the time." During this period, Mike contacted the defendants, children from the marriage to his deceased wife, requesting that they meet at the office of his attorney, R. L. Hudson, over the upcoming holidays. The purpose of the meeting was not disclosed, and the children did not question their father on the matter.

On December 29, the family met at Hudson's office in Pocahontas where, according to Hudson, the following conversation took place:

I said, "Mike, what can I do for you?" And he said, "Well, the children were all home, and I've been reading about this new revenue act," and he said, "I thought I better we better come in and I better find out what to do to save myself taxes."

I think I told him that, well, I know I did, that anything that was done, would have to be done on or before December 31, because the new law became effective January 1.

Q. Did he eventually, then, on that day, direct you to draft a deed conveying the

A. Well, after discuss(ing) it back and forth, he said he said this: He said, "Well, I think I better deed the land and whatever there is could be some there is going to be some change in the rules." He said, "I think I better do that," and he instructed me to do it.

Mike said that the children are all home the 29th or just a few days after Christmas, and Dean was here, and he wanted to come over and talk about it his estate. And thought something was necessary to be done, because of what was going to happen under the new law.

After some discussion between Mike and his attorney, it was agreed that Hudson would draw up a warranty deed which, after reserving to Mike a life estate, would transfer Mike's interest in an 80-acre farm to his three children in return for "$1.00 and other consideration." Mike did not indicate to the others at this conference that he was considering marriage, and in fact, they testified they did not know of Mike's relationship with Ruby. The deed which Hudson executed was recorded on the same day, December 29.

On January 26, 1977, nearly one month after this meeting in Hudson's office, Mike and Ruby were married, without prior notice to their children. Retiring to the 80-acre farm, the couple lived there until Mike died, intestate, on December 3, 1978.

This action in equity was commenced by Ruby against Mike's children, Naomi Strong Wood and Carol Strong Shimon, as administrators of Mike's estate, and against these same defendants and Dean L. Strong as individual grantees of Mike's interest in the farm. She alleged that she had entered into an oral contract of marriage with Mike prior to December 29, 1976; that she had not been aware of the transfer of the farm to his children prior to the marriage; that only after his death did she learn of the conveyance; and that as a result of her reliance on a statement by Mike that "she would be well provided for, both before and after his death," the transfer of the farm to his children fraudulently deprived her of her marital interest, § 633.211(1), The Code 1977. She requested that the deed be cancelled and annulled, and that she be granted her one-third share in the farm under the provisions of chapter 633. The matter was tried to the district court which found that Ruby failed to prove (1) that she relied on any representation as an...

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1 practice notes
  • Moser v. Thorp Sales Corp., No. 61995
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 25, 1981
    ...R.App.P. 4, 14(f)(7). In addition, when an action is tried to the district court in equity, we review the record de novo. Strong v. Wood, 306 N.W.2d 737, 738 (Iowa 1981). The present appeal was tried in equity and generally we would review the record de novo. However, even in an equity case......
1 cases
  • Moser v. Thorp Sales Corp., No. 61995
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 25, 1981
    ...R.App.P. 4, 14(f)(7). In addition, when an action is tried to the district court in equity, we review the record de novo. Strong v. Wood, 306 N.W.2d 737, 738 (Iowa 1981). The present appeal was tried in equity and generally we would review the record de novo. However, even in an equity case......

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