Court: Kids of divorced stepparent must pay inheritance tax

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that siblings who inherited a large share of their stepfather’s estate must pay inheritance taxes in a case that challenged the way Iowa’s tax laws treat stepchildren.

The Iowa Legislature in 2003 changed the state’s inheritance law so that children left money from a stepparent after the parents divorced couldn’t qualify for an inheritance tax exemption afforded natural or adopted children.

Paula Tyler and Mark Alcorn sued the state to recover $200,000 in taxes claiming the law violates the Iowa Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. They inherited the bulk of the estate of their stepfather, Donald Hitzhusen, a Rockford area farmer.

The court found that the state did not violate the constitution by revising tax laws as a way to promote close family relationships.