If you recently lost a parent or another close family member, you are probably still dealing with the grief of their passing. But even as you mourn, you might have to deal with probate or the process of satisfying their debts and transferring ownership of their assets. Depending on the size and contents of your loved one’s estate, you might be able to go through a simplified version of probate or avoid it altogether.
Are All Estates Required to Go Through Probate?
Most estates go through probate, but there are ways for smaller estates to avoid the full probate process. Using the shortcuts outlined below, surviving family members can transfer ownership of the estate from their deceased family member to that person’s heirs while saving time and money on court costs and legal fees.
Small Estate Affidavits
One way inheritors can get around probate and transfer ownership of a deceased person’s assets is through a simple affidavit. Iowa Code § 633.356 permits the distribution of property by affidavit for very small estates. To transfer assets using a simple affidavit, your deceased family member’s estate must not contain any real estate (unless the real estate has passed to a joint tenant, such as a spouse) and can’t be worth more than $50,000.
If the estate qualifies and you wish to get around probate, you could prepare an affidavit and file it with the clerk of the district court in which the estate is administered. Once the affidavit is on file, the court will direct the estate’s personal representative to pay money or deliver property as required. You won’t have to wait for the court to provide letters of appointment as you’ll be able to present the affidavit to conduct the business of the estate.
At least forty days must have passed since the death of your loved one for you to transfer property via affidavit. If the estate owes debts to creditors or to the Iowa Department of Human Services for benefits the deceased person received, the affidavit must indicate whether these amounts have been paid or will be paid using the assets transferred via the affidavit. If applicable, the affidavit should also indicate whether taxes due to the Iowa Department of Revenues have been or will be paid.
Simplified Probate in Iowa
Small estates valued at less than $200,000 are eligible for a simplified probate process. If you are the executor of your loved one’s estate, you can seek court approval to use the simplified process. If the estate doesn’t qualify based on its value, then you will have to go through the full probate process. If the estate does meet the eligibility requirements and the court approves your request, you’ll be able to avoid the stress and complexities of regular probate.
In your written request to the court, you must include the following information in accordance with Iowa Code § 635.2.
- Name and address of the deceased person
- The deceased person’s date of death
- Your name and the name of each inheritor
- Your relationship to the deceased person, as well as the relationship of any other inheritors to the deceased
- The name and address of the executor
- Confirmation that the estate is worth $200,000 or less
- Confirmation of a will and when the will was signed, unless your loved one died intestate (without drafting a will)
With over 100 years of combined experience, the Council Bluffs, IA probate attorneys at Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP, can help you determine whether you qualify for simplified probate or are eligible to transfer assets via affidavit and avoid the process altogether. Contact us today at 712-309-3738 for a consultation to find out how our compassionate legal team can help you navigate probate and preserve the value of your loved one’s estate.