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Iowa Marital Rights – The Surviving Spouse

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2017 | Elder Law

The Supreme Court of Iowa in 2009 handed down a ground breaking decision regarding marriage equality for same sex couples. This year, that equality has been extended throughout the country. This involves much more than just the right to get married. In Iowa, there are many rights and protections established by the Iowa legislature which Iowans enjoy because of their status as a spouse. Many of these protections relate to elder law issues, but they are actually pervasive throughout Iowa law. Some of these are as follows:

  • If a married Iowan dies without a will, the surviving spouse is automatically entitled to a share of the net estate by reason of the laws of intestacy. Even though a spouse is not an “heir” the law provides special protection status to a spouse.
  • If a married Iowan dies with a will that leaves no provision in favor of thespouse, or a legally insufficient share, the surviving spouse can make an“election” to take against the will and receive a share that is established by statute. The law does not allow one spouse to cut the other out of their will.
  • A surviving spouse is exempt from paying Iowa Inheritance Tax.
  • If an Iowan has not executed a declaration for the withholding of life sustaining procedures, and if there is no appointed attorney-in-fact or guardian, the law establishes a hierarchy with respect to who may make decisions to withhold or withdraw life sustaining procedures. A spouse has the first priority to make such a decision.
  • The law contains provisions to protect a spouse from impoverishment, if the other spouse needs to qualify for Medicaid to obtain nursing home or other care.
  • In Iowa, a homestead is generally exempt from claims of creditors. The law offers several protections to spouses, with respect to homestead rights.

For more information on this or similar issues, please contact Jack Ruesch at Telpner Peterson, LLP today at 712-309-3738.