Applying Decades Of Experience To Solve Modern Legal Issues

Supportive Guidance For The Probate Process

Probate needs to be handled efficiently to preserve the value of an estate. At Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP, our lawyers have helped clients navigate the probate process since 1952.

Under Iowa law, an estate must remain open for at least four months. During this time, creditors may file claims against the estate. Iowa law does not impose an inheritance tax on assets passed to lineal descendants and ascendants.

Probate requires the prompt completion of many tasks. Our probate attorneys handle all of these tasks, including:

  • Publication in a newspaper
  • Written notice to creditors and satisfaction of claims
  • Inventories filed with the court
  • Assuring titles of real estate pass properly
  • Preparation of necessary reports to be filed with the court
  • Assistance in the preparation of an accounting and distribution of assets

We also assist with other issues, such as:

  • Income tax issues
  • Federal estate tax issues
  • Trust matters

Any legal concern that has to do with you and your family can be complex for all parties involved. While we’re based in Council Bluffs, Iowa, our lawyers at Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP, also regularly handle probate and estate matters in Nebraska, and they will offer you the care and compassion you need while they fight for you.

We Have Answers To Your Questions About Probate

For many, probate is an unfamiliar process. Whether you’re planning your own estate for a smooth probate process for your loved ones or you’re taking a loved one’s estate through probate, you may find that you have more questions than answers. Here are answers to some of the questions we receive most often.

Who needs to go through probate?

In Iowa, anyone who dies owning real estate or personal property exceeding $50,000 in aggregate value.

What happens during probate?

The first step in probate is to locate the will and, if found, to make an application for its admission and approval by the court. Appointment of a personal representative is requested at the time a petition for admission of the will is filed with the court. The personal representative is responsible for managing the estate and carrying out the deceased person’s wishes. The personal representative will then, among other tasks, need to inventory the assets of the estate, pay the debts and distribute the assets to the heirs.

How long does probate take?

The length of time it takes to go through probate can vary depending on the complexity of the estate. However, probate typically takes about six to 12 months to complete.

Can I avoid probate?

One way to avoid probate is to create a living trust. A living trust is a legal entity that holds your assets while you are alive and after you die. This means that your assets will not pass through probate when you die, so long as all significant assets are transferred to the trust.

Preparing For Probate

While each case is unique, there are a few things you can do to get ready for the probate process, including:

  • Gathering the deceased person’s will: If the they had a will, it is important to locate it and have it reviewed by an attorney.
  • Identifying the late loved one’s assets: This includes real estate, personal property, bank accounts, investments and any other assets that they owned.
  • Seeking appointment of a personal representative by the court: The personal representative is the person who will be responsible for handling the deceased person’s estate. The personal representative is typically named in their will.
  • Opening an estate account: An estate account is a bank account used to hold the late loved one’s assets during the probate process.
  • Paying their debts: The personal representative is responsible for paying the deceased person’s debts. This includes credit card debt, medical bills and any other debts they owe.
  • Distributing the assets: Once the loved one’s debts have been paid, the personal representative is responsible for distributing their assets to their heirs.

This is just a short checklist of the steps involved in probate. The specific steps involved will vary depending on the individual circumstances. If you are facing probate, you should contact an attorney who can help you understand your options and navigate the process.

Non-Probate Assets

Assets that are not subject to probate administration under Iowa law. Examples include:

  • Life insurance with a named beneficiary
  • Individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s or retirement accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Assets (securities, bank accounts, etc.) held in transfer-on-death accounts
  • Property held in joint tenancy

Intestate Succession

Guidelines exist to determine who gets priority in the distribution of assets to surviving loved ones.

When a will does not exist or all beneficiaries named in the will are no longer alive, the estate will be distributed via intestate succession. The process of determining who inherits is governed by statute. There are a number of different ways the estate could be distributed based upon the decedent’s family structure.

Regardless of the types of assets and their values, the personal representative plays a vital role in settling the estate. Their job is to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to complete the probate process.

Loved ones should know that tasks become more challenging if probate involves another state. Known as ancillary probate, the process involves a second proceeding that involves out-of-state real estate or other types of tangible property.

Business Succession

If a person dies with an interest in a business, transfer of the business may need to be handled through probate. Our attorneys work closely with clients to ensure that the companies may continue to operate during probate administration.

Business succession planning is not about the size of the business; it’s about having a succession plan to ensure smooth transitions during difficult times. Even the highest-profile companies have some type of road map in place.

Contact Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP

If you are named as an executor of an estate, then contact our probate lawyers for assistance. They will work closely with you and assist you with the probate process. Contact us online or call our office in Council Bluffs at 712-309-3738.