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Who Would Get My Estate if I Die Without a Will in Iowa?

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2022 | Estate Planning

Many people don’t create a will or do any estate planning. A last will and testament is a valuable legal document that can protect your assets and your family’s future. Without a will, the property you leave behind might not transfer to your intended relatives. You should consider drafting a will to instruct your loved ones about how you want your estate distributed when you pass away.

Unfortunately, if you die without a will, the assets you worked hard to obtain could end up in the hands of an estranged spouse or irresponsible child. Estate planning is necessary to outline your final wishes and ensure your designated beneficiaries receive your home, car, retirement account, or other assets you believe they deserve.

Iowa’s Intestate Laws

Intestate succession law distributes a person’s assets to their closest relatives if they die without a will. Only the assets you own alone, in your own name, are subject to intestate succession.

Common assets that won’t pass to surviving relatives by intestate succession include:

  • Proceeds from a life insurance policy
  • Property transferred to a living trust
  • Securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • Funds in a 401(k) or another retirement account
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Jointly owned property

In Iowa, the court can assign someone to administer your estate if you pass away before creating a will. The appointed administrator will be responsible for distributing your property according to intestate succession laws.

Typically, a surviving spouse, child, or parent can receive assets in an estate. However, property division and distribution depend on the type and number of surviving family. Below is a breakdown of how intestate succession transfers assets based on surviving family members.

  • Spouse but no children – The spouse will receive eligible assets
  • Children and no spouse – The children will inherit the assets
  • Spouse and shared descendants – The spouse will receive the assets
  • Spouse and at least one descendant from a previous marriage – The spouse will inherit at least one half of intestate personal property and real estate if their share is at least $50,000 or higher, leaving the other half to the descendant
  • No spouse or descendants but a surviving parent – The parents will inherit all eligible assets
  • Siblings but no surviving spouse, parent, or descendant – The siblings will receive the assets

Unfortunately, Iowa only recognizes biological children as heirs. If you die without a will, your stepchildren, foster children, or adopted children can’t inherit your assets by intestate succession unless you have legally adopted them. Additionally, if a couple shares biological children but never married, they can only inherit assets from the father if he established legal paternity before his death.

The Importance of a Will

A valid and legally enforceable last will and testament is essential for multiple reasons. First, it protects your assets. If you want them to transfer to your named beneficiaries after you die, you should include them in your will. You must outline your wishes in detail so there’s no confusion about how the estate administrator should distribute everything.

Creating a will also relieves your family’s burden. If you die without an estate plan, your surviving relatives are forced to make decisions based on what they think you would want. They must go through a complicated probate process and could spend months or years fighting each other in court for the assets they believe they’re entitled to.

How We Can Help

Since 1952, the estate planning lawyers of Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP, have assisted our clients with a range of estate planning matters. We bring more than 100 years of combined legal experience to each case we take on. You can count on us to customize the necessary strategy to protect your rights and secure your family’s future.

If you want to discuss your options for creating a will in Council Bluffs, IA, call us at 712-309-3738 right now for your confidential consultation.