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Does a Spouse Automatically Inherit Everything in Iowa?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2023 | Estate Planning

If someone dies in Iowa and leaves a will, the probate court will validate the will and allow the executor to distribute the estate’s assets according to the last will and testament. However, if the decedent died without leaving a valid will, Iowa law deems them to have died intestate. This means that the court must follow intestate succession laws to decide who will inherit the property of the deceased.

These succession laws outline who should inherit your assets according to the relationships you had with your surviving relatives. In some cases, your spouse will automatically inherit everything. However, there are a few exceptions.

Iowa Inheritance Law and Spouses

If you die intestate in Iowa, whether your spouse inherits your property will depend on whether you have surviving descendants from another relationship. If no descendants have survived you, your spouse will automatically inherit all your assets and property. If your only descendants are a product of your relationship with your spouse, your spouse will still automatically inherit all your property.

Descendants from Other Relationships

If you leave behind descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren) from another relationship, the court will divide your intestate property between those descendants and your spouse. The amount your spouse will receive depends on the value of your intestate property.

Your spouse is entitled to half of the value of non-joint tenancy real property, and your descendants are entitled to the other half of such property. Additionally, your spouse is entitled to one-half of all other personal property that is not necessary for the payment of your debts.

However, the surviving spouse’s share is to be at least $50,000 per Iowa Code. If the entire estate does not equal $50,000 in value, the spouse will inherit everything.

Legally Adopted Children, Stepchildren, and Children Born out of Wedlock

If you have legally adopted children, they have the same eligibility to claim their share of your intestate property as any biological children have. Likewise, if you put one of your biological children up for adoption and another family legally adopted them, this child may not claim a share of your intestate property unless your spouse was the person who adopted them.

Stepchildren you never legally adopted are not eligible to receive a portion of the descendant’s share of your intestate property. Neither are foster children.

If you fathered a child outside of marriage, they might still receive their portion of the descendant’s share if one of the following is true:

  • Paternity was legally established
  • You acknowledged in writing that you were the father
  • You publicly and generally acknowledged your paternity

Your grandchildren are eligible to receive a share only if their otherwise eligible parent has already died.

The Importance of a Will

While extenuating factors may lead you to die without a will, dying intestate can cause a great deal of stress for your loved ones. If you have put off creating a will, or if you have an old will that is no longer valid due to a change of circumstances in your life, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you ensure that your final wishes will be carried out when you are gone.

Contact Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP

If you have concerns about what will happen to your property or how your family will manage after you die, the experienced estate planning attorneys at Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP, can help. Iowans have trusted our firm since 1952, and we are committed to protecting your best interests. Call us today at 712-309-3738 or contact us online for a consultation with a member of our team.