Iowa Will Contests Explained

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
January 20, 2020

In this article, we will explain Iowa will contests. Our Iowa attorneys will answer:

  • What does it mean to contest a will in Iowa?
  • Who can contest a will in Iowa?
  • What are legal grounds for contesting a will in Iowa?
  • How to contest a will in Iowa
  • What are the chances of contesting a will in Iowa and winning?

What Does It Mean to Contest a Will in Iowa?

After a will is admitted to probate, it may draw concern or spark doubt. If there is uncertainty surrounding the validity of a will, it may be contested by an interested party. This temporarily stops the probate process of a decedent’s estate until the contest is addressed by the court.

Who Can Contest a Will in Iowa?

A will may only be contested in Iowa by an interested party. By definition, an interested party stands to lose or gain property, assets, or something of value should a will be carried out as written. It is common for spouses, former spouses, children, parents, or siblings to contest a will. But non-familial parties can qualify as interested parties, such as a creditor.

What Are Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will in Iowa?

A will can be contested for several reasons in Iowa. The most common two are:

Undue Influence in Will Contests

If an interested party suspects a testator was negatively influenced by a relative, friend, or even a healthcare provider into changing the terms of their will, they can contest on the grounds of undue influence.

For example, Gary may claim that his sibling Tom manipulated their father into leaving his entire estate to Tom with verbal threats.

Lack of capacity

If an interested party suspects a testator did not have the mental capacity to execute a valid will, the document and terms can be contested. For a will to be legally valid, a testator needs to:

  • Know they are making a will
  • Understand the type and value of their property
  • Identify their natural heirs
  • Understand how they want to distribute their property

Lack of testamentary is not automatically established by old age, memory problems, or diagnoses like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Instead, it must be proven without a doubt in court by the contesting interested party.

How to Contest a Will in Iowa

When an interested party wishes to contest a will in Iowa, they must first file a complaint with the probate court. The executor of the estate in question will be notified and they will have the opportunity to defend the will in question in a trial. After hearing both sides of the contest, a probate judge will deliver their verdict. 


If a will is found to be valid, the assets are distributed in accordance with its terms. But if all or part of a will is found invalid, the entire estate of the decedent, or the affected portion, will be distributed under intestate law. In other words, winning a contested will trial does not guarantee an interested party property or inheritance.

What Are the Chances of Contesting a Will in Iowa and Winning?

It is not easy to win a will contest. The pros and cons of contesting a will should always be heavily weighed by an interested party before moving forward. Should a will contain a “no contest” clause and a beneficiary chooses to contest, they will forfeit their share of the estate should they fail to prove their case. They will also be required to pay all attorney fees and costs associated with the contest.


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