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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we will discuss Iowa intestacy laws and how to divide an estate if there is no will. Our article will answer the questions: 

  • What property qualifies for Intestate Succession in Iowa? 
  • How does Intestate Succession Work in Iowa? 
  • How can I prevent Intestate Succession? 


While most Iowans know they really do need a will, the reality is, not everyone is able to have a will written prior to their passing. The State of Iowa has a process for distribution of your possessions should you pass without a will. This process is known as intestate succession. 


What property qualifies for Intestate Succession in Iowa? 


Iowa uses the process of intestate succession to determine who receives the assets that would otherwise be covered by a will. This is limited to any assets held in your name only. Any jointly owned property typically goes to the surviving owner. The following are some examples of property which could be designated to go to another person and would be exempt from intestate succession: 

  • Life insurance payouts 
  • Bank accounts or securities payable upon death 
  • IRA accounts, 401 K accounts, 403 B accounts or any other retirement accounts 
  • Property held in a living trust or in joint tenancy 


How does Intestate Succession Work in Iowa? 


The state of Iowa will first look for any surviving family relatives to determine who receives property. This could include your parents, spouse, children or other decedents. If you have a spouse when you pass, they will inherit everything, even if you have children. If you do not have a spouse but have children, they will inherit all of the property.  


Things get a little complicated if you have a spouse but also have children from another relationship. In that instance, your spouse will receive half of any real property plus half of your personal property with a minimum sum of $50,000.00. Any descendants will receive the rest. This can often lead to conflict, specifically if your descendants are not on good terms with your spouse. A situation could arise where your children own part of the house your new spouse lives in. In either case, because your spouse must receive at least $50,000.00 by Iowa law, your descendants may be left with a smaller share of your estate. 

Should you not have a spouse or any children, your parents are next in line. Finally, should your parents not be alive, your siblings would inherit everything.  


How can I prevent Intestate Succession? 


The intestate succession process can be extremely painful for those you love following your passing. They may ask or wonder if the distribution reflects what you wished or ask why you didn’t have a plan and would allow your property to be distributed like this. The easiest way to prevent this is to have a will.  

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.


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