Creating a will should bring you peace of mind knowing that your final wishes will be carried out as you have instructed. You may want your estate to go to a specific beneficiary in its entirety or to be divided in a particular way to particular individuals and loved ones.
Whatever your wishes may be, there are certain things you need to know to ensure that your wishes are carried out true to your intentions. In Iowa, several things absolutely must happen to make sure your will is legally valid. A dedicated estate attorney can help to make sure your will includes all the essential elements.
Why is it Important to Have a Will in Iowa?
Without a will, there is no way to be sure that your wishes will be honored. And even worse, the ones you love the most may wind up at odds with each other, each with their interpretation of what you would have wanted. This can lead to the division of family and friendships, and your true wishes will never be known. By creating a will, you can determine and control what people and organizations will receive the property you own and how it will be divided. This may include real estate, jewelry, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, and more.
What Elements Constitute a Valid Will in Iowa?
The following elements are required to have a valid will created in Iowa:
- Your will must be in writing. A digital copy format will not suffice.
- You must sign your will. No one can serve as your proxy for signing your will.
- A will must be witnessed to be considered valid. Two competent persons must witness your signing of the will and must sign it themselves in your presence. Almost every state, including Iowa, requires that the signing of a will be witnessed. This is protection against fraud. If this or any witnessing requirement is not met, it will be up to the probate court judge to determine whether or not to admit the will to probate.
- Your will must be declared as yours by you. This requires a formally spelled-out statement.
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must be “of sound mind” when you create and sign your will. You must have the mental capacity to create your will and to understand the effects of your will.
- There must be no “undue influence” or pressure put on you during the creation of your will. If you were pressured in some way to create your will, or if someone in a position of trust took advantage of you, your will may be declared invalid.
How Could a Will be Challenged?
Only an interested party can contest a will in Iowa. This means someone who stands to lose or gain property, assets, or anything of value if the will were to be carried out as it is written. This may include spouses, former spouses, siblings, parents, and children.
Here are a few of the reasons a will may be contested:
- The descendant was mentally unfit at the time of the signing of the will
- The author of the will was under undue influence or pressure
- The will was improperly executed
- There was suspected fraud or forgery
Why do I need a lawyer to help me?
A lawyer who is experienced in estate planning and probate can guide you in creating a strong will that will be difficult to challenge. Your attorney will instruct you on what you should include and not in a will. They could also explain to you the benefits of notarizing your will and more.
Contact Your Estate Attorney at Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP
At Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP, our Council Bluffs wills and trusts lawyers have provided top-notch estate planning and probate services since 1952. There is a reason why so many people have chosen us to help them plan for their future, so call us at 712-309-3738 or reach out to us online to find out more.