In this article...

A will is a written document that specifies how your property will be distributed after you die. A will must be (1) in writing, (2) signed by the person making the will, (3) declared by the person making the will to be his or her will, and (4) witnessed by two qualified witnesses who must sign in the presence of the person making the will in order to be legally valid in Iowa. The statutory criteria for writing a will must be followed to the letter, otherwise the will is not recognized as valid by Iowa courts. 

Key Takeaways

These questions can be answered in a will, which is a written document. A will is a written document that specifies how your property will be distributed after you die. A will must be (1) in writing, (2) signed by the person making the will, (3) declared by the person making the will to be his or her will, and (4) witnessed by two qualified witnesses who must sign in the presence of the person making the will in order to be legally valid in Iowa. The statutory criteria for writing a will must be followed to the letter, otherwise the will is not recognized as valid by Iowa courts. 

Why Should I Have a Will?  

Making a will gives you power over who receives the property you own at the time of your death. Clothing, jewelry, ornaments, automobiles, recreational vehicles, bank accounts, savings, and real estate are examples of such property. You may also leave specific items or organizations to specific individuals or organizations in your will. 

Another significant reason to have a will is to appoint who you want to be the guardian of your minor children and the trustee to handle their finances when you pass away. While the children's guardian and trustee may be the same person, it is always in the children's best interests to select different people for these positions. 

Many estates may not be subject to federal or state "death taxes," but there may be income tax implications associated with death, depending on the assets. When a person dies, there is nothing that can be done to protect an estate from the tax implications of not having a will, a trust, or a proper estate plan. As a result, one of the most important purposes of a will is to minimize the taxes that will be due upon your death and the deaths of one or more of your beneficiaries. 

What Is an Executor of a Will Responsible for?

You may also appoint an executor in your will to take care of your affairs. This person collects your belongings, pays your debts and any taxes owed, and distributes the remainder of your estate to the individuals or organizations you specify. 

In your will, you have the option of leaving your property to whomever you choose. A married person, on the other hand, cannot absolutely exclude a partner without the consent of the spouse. In lieu of the provision made in your will, your surviving spouse can elect to take an elective share. A parent may disinherit a child if the disinheritance is not the result of an error. There are a few more limitations that a lawyer can explain. In Iowa, for example, indefinite-term trusts are not permitted. 

What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

If you die without a will, the court appoints an administrator to administer your assets and distribute your property according to Iowa law. Court and administrative costs, funeral and burial expenses, fines, last-ditch medical expenses, some loans, and unpaid child or spousal maintenance are all compensated before all other allowable claims in Iowa. The remainder of the estate is split among the surviving spouse and your children or other heirs after all other claims or debts of the estate have been settled, as discussed below. 

If you die without a will, your surviving spouse may not receive all of your assets at the time of your death. Your surviving spouse's share of your estate will be determined by (1) whether you had children and (2) whether any of your children were also your surviving spouse's children. Your surviving spouse would inherit your entire estate if you and your spouse have no children or if any of your children are also the children of your surviving spouse. If you have children that are not also your surviving spouse's children, your surviving spouse will receive the first $50,000 plus one-half of the remaining property in your estate. The remaining half is split equally among your heirs. 

If you die without a will and no surviving spouse, your children will inherit your entire estate, with the share of any child who died before you going to the heirs of that child. If you die without a spouse, children, or children's heirs, your net estate goes to your living parents. If none of your parents survives you, your estate is split equally among your brothers and sisters, plus any deceased brother or sister's heirs. If you have no brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews, your estate would be divided between your grandparents or their descendants. If none of these definitions apply to you, Iowa law has additional rules for deciding who will inherit the remainder of your assets. 

Even if a close friend or partner survives you, if you have no living relatives and have not given otherwise by means of a will, your property and belongings will go to the state of Iowa. Since the clauses mentioned above are very complicated, it is advisable to seek legal advice when drafting your will. If you seek the advice of a competent attorney, you will help ensure that your will is compliant with current Iowa law and prevent several problems for your heirs. 

When does my property go into probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process for transferring control of a deceased person's estate. When you buy property and die, the estate must go through the probate process, which is overseen by a court of law. Probate laws are in place to secure the interests of heirs and creditors, as well as to ensure that property is collected, preserved, and transferred in a timely manner. Whether or not you have a will, if you die with an ownership interest in any land, your assets must be probated. The court will decide if your will is valid or who will inherit your property if there isn't one. 

What happens during the probate process?

The charging of certain fees is an unavoidable part of the probate process. The court filing fees would be determined by the value of the estate's properties. The cost of an attorney is determined by the complexity of the estate. In addition, payments differ from one lawyer to the next, based on experience and other factors. An attorney should be able to give you a rough estimate of total fees once he or she has some clear details about the assets. Before you hire an attorney, make sure you understand the fee agreement. In addition, the executor or administrator is entitled to reimbursement for costs incurred in administering and settling the assets, as well as for time spent doing so. Unless otherwise specified in the decedent's will, Iowa law sets a limit on how much an attorney or personal representative may charge for fees in an estate. 

For a large or disputed estate, probate may take two years or even longer. The period given for creditors to file claims against the estate is one reason for this. Additionally, all state and federal estate tax returns that must be completed within nine months of the date of death must be approved by the Iowa Department of Revenue and Finance and the Internal Revenue Service. The length of time it takes to probate an estate is determined by many factors, including the size of the estate, the type of assets held, the mode of ownership, tax concerns, the complexity of creditors' claims, marital property issues, and whether a company is involved. 

How long does probate take in Iowa?

Unless a court grants an extension, Iowa law mandates that an estate be closed within three years of the second publication of the notice to creditors. Beneficiaries will be entitled to claim a portion of their inheritance even though the estate is already in probate. After the creditors' claim period has expired, the personal representative can ensure that the estate has sufficient funds to meet all expenditures and taxes. The personal representative will then make a partial distribution to beneficiaries from the remaining funds before probate is completed. 

How do I Avoid Probate in Iowa?

Many people go to great lengths to avoid probate. While it is true that probate is not required if you own no property or if all of your property is owned jointly or in trust, avoiding probate can result in higher costs and taxes, which may not be desirable. A lawyer's advice may assist you in determining the appropriate course of action regarding your specific situation. 

Some properties pass outside of your will. Life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts, for example, would be distributed to the beneficiaries you designate through your beneficiary designation with the provider. Furthermore, any property you possess as a joint tenant with another person (such as real estate, vehicles, and bank accounts) will be automatically transferred to that other person when you die. Any property owned in a trust will transfer to the people listed as the trust's beneficiaries. In both of these situations, the property moves regardless of your wishes recorded in your will. 

Even if your estate consists of the above types of property, it is advisable to make a will. For example, if you were given a lottery ticket as a birthday gift, your will covers any winnings you received. In certain cases, keeping property in joint tenancy may actually increase taxes and expenses. A lawyer will help you create a will and an estate plan that will save your heirs time and money in the future. 

If the estate is worth less than a certain amount (currently $25,000.00) and is entirely made up of personal property, a probate proceeding might not be necessary, and the estate may be transferred using an affidavit. Creditor claims, on the other hand, must be addressed. 

Can I change my will?

Unless it is modified or revoked, a will is in effect. A individual can change their will as many times as they want during their lifetime as long as they are competent. A will that is already in place should be checked on a regular basis. Loved ones may not be provided for if your will is out of date when you die. Consider updating your will if you marry or divorce, if a family member is born or dies, if the value and/or type of property you own changes, or if the person you choose to be your guardian, trustee, or executor moves away or dies. Any such change of circumstances necessitates a thorough examination and reconsideration of a will's provisions.

Request a consultation with an attorney. Call our office at (630) 324-6666 or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers today. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.

Text Link
Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.
Text Link

FREE Probate & Estate Administration E-Book

Similar Articles

Learn about Law