Whether the deceased individual had a valid will or no will at their death, it may be necessary to go through the probate process. If there is a will, the probate process establishes that it is the binding will and determines who the beneficiaries of the estate. Probate also establishes who are valid creditors of the estate and whether those creditors get paid. While not every estate goes through the probate process, it may be necessary to use the probate process to establish clear title for any real estate.
When there is a valid Will that directs the distribution and management of assets (called “testate” estate) the steps of the probate process are summarized as follows:
- Admission of Will to Probate and appointment of executor
- Necessary notices (publication, heirs, beneficiaries, DHS)
- Prepare and file inventory of assets
- Respond to any claims
- Tax filing requirements
- Final Report and distribute
Rules of Inheritance Under Intestacy
For probate assets (without a joint owner or a named beneficiary)that do need to pass to the heirs of an individual without a will (called “intestate”) the Iowa Code dictates, without any discretion or ability to vary, who receives those assets. The determination of the heirs basically follows a family tree, with special rules for situations involving children whom are not the children of the surviving spouse. The rules of intestacy can create significant problems which may take years to resolve and can create significant strain between family members. Issues can also arise with step-children that were never adopted, albeit treated as natural children. Also, unless all of the heirs waive the requirement, a bond will need to be obtained for the administrator which creates an additional expense and burden.
Distribution by Affidavit
For small estates ($25,000 or less) without any land ownership, it may be possible to avoid probate altogether and transfer those assets by an affidavit as permitted by the Iowa Code.
For a flat fee, we can assist you with preparing and utilizing this affidavit.