Friday, December 12, 2008
An Iowa attorney who practiced personal injury and workers' compensation law wished to marry his office manager and sought a premarital agreement protecting his assets for the benefit of children from an earlier marriage. He drafted an agreement and encouraged his intended to seek independent legal advice, which she did to a limited extent with a first but not a second draft of the proposed agreement.
On appeal of a determination that the agreement was unenforceable, the Iowa Supreme Court disagreed and reversed:
We are not persuaded that Randall's will was substituted for Teresa's own judgment in deciding to sign the agreement. The district court found Randall's position as a lawyer, and his status as Teresa's fiancee and employer, put Randall in such a position of power over Teresa that she was willing to put her full faith in his judgment in drafting the agreement. Despite the potential for abuse inherent in the parties' complex relationship, we find the evidence presented was insufficient to establish undue influence. Although Teresa testified that Randall subtly encouraged her not to take the second draft to an attorney, the district court found this testimony incredible. We credit the district court's credibility determination and find Randall encouraged Teresa to seek the advice of counsel as to both drafts of the agreement. The facts presented here simply do not demonstrate the improper or wrongful constraint, machination, or urgency of persuasion required for a finding of undue influence.
The court futher concluded that the agreement was not signed under duress or otherwise unconscionable. (Mike Frisch)