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Martin Begleiter

Martin (Marty) Begleiter passed away at home on March 11, surrounded by the love of his family.


Marty grew up in Albany, New York. He attended college at the University of Rochester, where he majored in history and developed a special interest in the Civil War. He was a DJ on the campus radio station, WRUR, playing rock and folk music. He was known on campus for playing what were affectionately called “Marty’s Morbies,” songs about teen lovers separated by death.


Marty then went to Cornell Law School, where he met a Cornell undergraduate named Ronni Frankel. Marty proposed to Ronni six weeks after they met, and they were married (on the same weekend as Woodstock) less than a year after their first date.


Marty practiced law at one of New York City’s big law firms for seven years and was then recruited to teach at Drake Law School. He and Ronni moved to Iowa, where they found a community of wonderful friends and colleagues, and where they had their children, Wendy and Hilary. Family was the focal point of Marty’s life, and his children were his pride and joy.


Marty was a very productive and noted scholar in the field of Wills and Trusts. He was elected to membership in the American Law Institute and The American College of Trusts and Estates Counsel (ACTEC), and he co-authored a leading course book in the trusts and estates field. He served as an advisor for the Restatement (Third) of the Law of Trusts and was an American Bar Association advisor to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws revision to Uniform Probate Code, as well as the Uniform State Laws Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.


He frequently wrote well-regarded law review articles and delighted in selecting unusual titles for them, including: “Grim Fairy Tales,” “A Farewell to Farms,” “First Let’s Sue All the Lawyers,” and “Serve the Cheerleader, Serve the World.” He was very active in the Probate section of the Iowa State Bar Association (ISBA) and was the principal drafter of the Iowa Trust Code. His Bar work gave him great intellectual and emotional satisfaction, and he was honored to receive the ISBA President’s Award.


Marty enjoyed birdwatching, watching college sports (especially Drake men’s basketball) and playing golf. He and Ronni took many “bucket list” vacations, but his personal vacation highlight was hitting a hole-in-one on the 17th hole of the Kapalua Bay Course on Maui. Besides the law and his family, his overriding passion was for the Cleveland Browns. As a season ticket holder, Marty attended most Browns’ home games for 15 years. He took great joy in the Browns’ 2020 season, and if the Browns someday win the Super Bowl, it will doubtless be due to Marty’s intervention.


Left behind to cherish Marty’s memory are his wife of 51 years, Ronni; his daughters, Wendy Livingston (Christopher) and Hilary Begleiter (Geoffrey Phillips), and his granddaughter, Kaitlyn Livingston. Per Marty’s wishes, no memorial will be held. Those wishing to honor him are encouraged to make a contribution to the American Battlefield Trust, the American Law Institute, or Des Moines Performing Arts.