Schedule a Consultation

The Iowa Probate Process Explained

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

In this article, we explain the Iowa probate process by answering the following questions:

  • What is probate?
  • What is the purpose of probate in Iowa?
  • Are all assets subject to probate in Iowa?
  • Do I need an attorney for a probate case in Iowa?
  • When is probate necessary in Iowa?
  • The probate process in Iowa

What is probate?

Probate is the official manner in which an estate is settled under supervision of the court. When a person dies without an established will, an executor is appointed (typically a surviving spouse or adult child of the deceased) to gather and value owned assets, settle remaining debts, and distribute assets to heirs.

What is the purpose of probate in Iowa?

Probate prevents fraud and theft after a death. Without it, debts could go unpaid and assets could be improperly distributed.

Are all assets subject to probate in Iowa?

No, not all assets are subject to probate. Some are automatically transferred, even without being specified in a will. These include:


  • Any asset owned in joint tenancy — These assets automatically transfer to the joint tenant. This is also known as right of survivorship. An example would be a home.
  • Tenancy by the entirety — Similar to joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety signals a survivor to own all property upon death. This is only available to married couples.
  • Beneficiary designations – These include retirement accounts and life insurance policies with named beneficiaries. Bank and brokerage accounts can also have designated beneficiaries.
  • Living trust – Anything in a living trust won’t go through probate (unless assets outside of the trust add up to more than Iowa’s small estate limit).

When is probate necessary in Iowa?

Iowa estates that exceed the small estate’s threshold, have no will, or have a will but no living trust will require probate before the estate can be transferred to beneficiaries.

Do I need an attorney for a probate case in Iowa?

Yes, Iowa requires attorneys in all probate cases.

The probate process in Iowa

Every case of probate is unique but there is a general procedure that most follow. Settling an estate via probate in Iowa may include the following steps.

  1. If the deceased had a will, it is filed in the District Court in the county of residence.
  2. A Petition for Probate is filed to request an executor appointment. When there is no will to determine an executor, the court will appoint someone. As required by law, notice must be given to all beneficiaries of an appointed executor.
  3. Once filed, a notice announcing the Petition for Probate is published in a newspaper where the deceased resided. The purpose of the publishing is to notify creditors, who then have four months to make a claim against the estate.
  4. Letters Testamentary are issued to the executor, granting them legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
  5. An inventory of all assets is filed with the court.
  6. After all debts have been settled, a Petition to close probate is filed.

After a court-issued order, property is distributed to beneficiaries.


The Iowa Probate Process Explained
Author

Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

Kevin O’Flaherty is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has experience in litigation, estate planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and comprehensive business representation.

What to Expect From a Consultation

The purpose of a free consultation is to determine whether our firm is a good fit for your legal needs. Although we often discuss expected results and costs, our attorneys do not give legal advice unless and until you choose to retain us. Although most consultations are complimentary, some may carry a charge depending on the type of matter and meeting location.


9 am - 5 pm M - F
After 5 pm by Appt
11 am - 3pm Sat by Appt
11 am - 2 pm Sun by Appt

Open Hours

Mon - Fri

9am - 5pm

By Appointment

Mon - Fri

after 5pm

Saturday

11 am - 3pm

Sunday

11 am - 2 pm


9 am - 5 pm M - F
After 5 pm by Appt
11 am - 3pm Sat by Appt
11 am - 2 pm Sun by Appt

Open Hours

Mon - Fri

9am - 5pm

By Appointment

Mon - Fri

after 5pm

Saturday

11 am - 3pm

Sunday

11 am - 2 pm


9 am - 5 pm M - F
After 5 pm by Appt
11 am - 3pm Sat by Appt
11 am - 2 pm Sun by Appt

Contact us for a Free Consultation

Who We are

We are your community law firm. Our Iowa & Illinois Attorneys are committed to providing exceptional client service in a cost-effective manner in the areas of Family Law, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Guardianship, Criminal Defense, Corporate & Contract Law, Bankruptcy and Real Estate.
Disclaimer: Our articles and comment responses do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.

Please contact us to schedule a consultation specific to your legal situation.