Coomes v. Finegan Case Brief

Summary of Coomes v. Finegan, 233 Iowa 448 (1943)

Facts: Ms. Coomes died intestate leaving 91 acres of land, and survived by her husband, seven children, and some grandchildren of a deceased child. Prior to her death, a daughter and heir, Lola, had a judgment levied against her and her husband. A month and a half after Ms. Coomes death, Lola filed her disclaimer/renouncement her right of inheritance. All the heirs executed and delivered to Mr. Coomes a quit claim deed. Lola made attempt to claim any interest prior to or after her renunciation. The judgment creditor/defendant executed and levied on Lola’s one-twelfth interest in the property. The claim was that Lola’s renunciation was made w/o consideration, w/ intent to defraud, and to defeat the collection.

Issue: Whether or not a child who takes an interest in devise from an intestate parent, in Iowa, can, by renunciation of that interest, defeat a lien of a prior judgment?

Holding: The renunciation was not effective to destroy the lien of the judgment and the child took her interest in the property subject to and burdened therewith, the father took no title to her interest by quit claim deed by the other heirs.

Procedure: A suit to enjoin the sale of real estate at sheriff’s sale District Ct. decree dissolving a temporary injunction and denying a permanent injunction, Pl appealed. Decree is affirmed.

Rule: A testamentary trust, bequest or devise, may, prior to any act of acceptance, be renounced by the beneficiary, so long as there is no estoppel, or fraud or collusion for the benefit of the renouncer, and such renunciation when made will revert back to the death of the testator and will displace the lien, of any personal judgment against the beneficiary existing at that time, or of any levy on the property made subsequent thereto.

Rationale: Renunciation is not an assignment, contract or conveyance. It is not the equivalent of a transfer by a debtor to defeat creditors. Creditors have no right and cts have no jurisdiction to control the right of such a beneficiary to accept or refuse such a gift. A released legacy or devise becomes intestate property and passes to the heirs or next of kin. An expectant heir may by an agreement for the one he expects to inherit from, for consideration, to release or bar himself by estoppel from claiming his intestate share, will be upheld if fair to and without fraud on the assignor, w/ adequate consideration after the estate vests. No creditor could have any rights against such. Where a husband stated he wanted his wife to have all, and the mother said it was right and agreed, the mother was later estopped to claim any interest as an heir. In Iowa title vests in the heir, devisee or spouse instantly on the death of the decedent, subject to payment of debts and costs of administration. When the right is renounced vesting of title is divested completely as though it never existed.

The judgment here attached eo instante on the intestate’s death. Both the lien and title vested by operation of law. The vesting of the title required no assent or acceptance by Lola. Title was indefeasible, and such title can be lost by prescription, adverse possession, or estoppel. None of which ever took place. She could part with title by intestacy, testamentary disposition, gift, contract, or conveyance, but even so the title would have been subject to and burdened with the lien.




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