What is "Probate" for an Iowa Estate?

"Probate" is a term that is often mentioned (well, maybe not often) but many people don't understand what it really involves. Probate is the legal process where, through a court-supervised system, a deceased individual's assets are transferred to their rightful heirs/beneficiaries; taxes are paid; and debts/claims are handled. The probate process also includes the validation of a will.

It is not necessary to have the attorney who drafted the will handle the process. The "administrator" or "executor" can select whatever attorney they choose.  The administrator or executor is the individual appointed by the court to handle the various steps in probating an estate.

In Iowa, the probate process primarily consists of 5 stages.

  1. The filing of the initial set of documents to open the estate.
  2. Publication of notice in a newspaper for filing of claims and giving notice to heirs and creditors.
  3. Waiting the time period for the filing of any claims or contests to the will.
  4. Filing of the report and inventory and payment of taxes.
  5. Distribution to beneficiaries/heirs and discharge of the executor/administrator.

Every state is different in how the probate process is administered and you should contact a knowledgeable attorney to handle the probate process. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the probate process in Iowa.
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Comments (154) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Mike Patterson - May 29, 2008 10:54 AM

I am the Personal Representative of my father's estate, who was a resident of the state of Washington. I am the only heir. I am in the process of closing his estate by doing it myself without an attorney as it is a simple estate. However he does have real estate in Iowa and I need to transfer the title into my name. I did run an ad for 6 weeks in the local newspaper in Chariton Iowa for probate purposes. Is transfering the title something I can do myself?

Matt Gardner - May 29, 2008 11:21 AM

To transfer that real property in Iowa, assuming it was solely in your father’s name, you will need to go through ancillary probate in Iowa through the courts. It is something that you can do yourself, however I strongly recommend getting legal counsel to assist.

M. Carson - June 7, 2008 12:00 AM

I'm the sole inheritor and executor of my significant other's small estate. My lawyer is charging me not only for phone calls made to him by my deceased partner's children, which I did not authorize, but also for documents prepared and sent to them, namely copies of the newspaper article required to be run two times as well as the iinventory of the estate. Is it required by law that they be so notified? That I should have to pay for their phone calls at $175 an hour seems outrageous. Do I have any legal grounds for protesting either of these charges?

Matt Gardner - June 7, 2008 11:02 AM

By statute, there is a ceiling for attorney fees (based on the size of the estate) and they have to be approved by the court before they can be paid. If he is charging you now for that work without court approval, he is in violation of the probate rules. At the court hearing on his fees, you can protest and object.

Having said that, charging for phone calls, letters, etc. is not unusual as the only thing we can charge for is our time, and those things do take time. Rather than have him deal with those requests, you as the executor can handle them and you can request that he direct all inquiries to you so that you don't get charged for those communications. That may result in some tension, as I'm inferring there may not be the best relationship with your partner's family.

Also, yes, there is an obligation to notify the "heirs" (children or parents) of the proceedings. I don't send out any other information to heirs other than a notice, unless the executor authorizes me to do so. The will, inventory, etc. are public record and family can use their own dime to get that information...if that is the route the executor wants to take.

jean beisler - June 7, 2008 11:38 AM

My sister is the executor for my parent's estate. There are three sisters total. She has changed the locks on the house and will not give my sister or I access to the property which was our childhood home and will be divided between the three of us. Can she do this?
Thank you

Matt Gardner - June 7, 2008 12:58 PM

As the executor, it is her legal responsibility to "marshall" (get control) all of the estate assets to make sure they are protected, inventoried and eventually sold or distributed for the beneficiaries/heirs and creditors. She will have to account for the assets under her control. It is not uncommon to do this to prevent someone from taking more than they are entitled to or to prevent fighting over the assets that are removed. Hope this helps.

Jerri - July 17, 2008 3:48 PM

My aunt died in may of 2008. She had a WILL in place and probate has opened. I am wondering what the process is in Iowa for the probate when there was a legal will in place and what is the usual time frame. The lawyer told my grandfather that they cannot do anything until four months from her death is this true?

Matthew Gardner - July 17, 2008 3:57 PM

The average time-frame for probate is about a year. This is dependent upon the efficiency of the attorney, the cooperation of the family and the cooperation of the executor/administrator. The four month period of the "freeze" is actually four months after the date of the second publication of notice, not death. Basically, during this 4 month period the freeze protects the executor from personal liability should they disburse assets, then you have a creditor come out of the woodwork and not have sufficient assets to pay a claim or the assets are paid to the wrong beneficiary.

Hope this helps.

Larry Ehlinger - July 21, 2008 1:12 PM

My father-in-law died and left a small to no estate. Six months prior to his death his wife died and left a $10K life insurance benefit which had not been paid when he died. We want this money paid directly to the funeral home. The insurance company would like a Small Estate Affidavit to release the the funds to the funeral home. We would like to file this form ourselves, however, my father-in-lwa left a house which we gave back to the bank becasue the mortage was more than the value of the home. Can we file the Small Estate Affidavit to get the funeral home paid or does the $10K need to go to the mortgage company?

Nancy Lewis - August 15, 2008 10:51 AM

My father died and left an old mobile home jointly owned with my sister, she sold it for $2000. to repay herself for the funeral and a few hundred dollars in his bank account which I am jointly listed on. I am going to pay his final utility bills and all that is left are 2 credit cards which total around $4000.00. He only had old furniture and dishes which we had to disposed of (none of it was useable). We can not pay an attorney to open an estate and do not want to be held responsible for his credit cards. The phone company wants an affidavit from the estate admin. (which there is not one)to release the capitol credits to one of us. How do I get this affidavit? Can I write one myself?) And what happens if we do nothing about his estate?

Marlene Miller - October 12, 2008 10:57 AM

My question is about the 2% attorney fee described in Matt Gardner's blog. Does the 2% refer to the value listed on the Report and Inventory filed, or is it 2% of the value of the estate determined by the sale of those assets? In the case of farm real estate sold by auction, the actual value may be substantially above or below the value listed on the inventory. The attorney for my husband's family estates filed an amendment when the actual value (determined by auction) increased over the inventory value, taking his 2% of the increased value, and then for my family estate, refused to file an amendment when the actual value (determined by auction) was considerably less than the value listed in the inventory taking his 2%
of the higher value listed in the inventory. Since the Iowa Code referred to in the blog only says 2% of the gross assets, my question is, 2% of what?
Marlene Miller

Donna - November 30, 2008 1:31 PM

Our Mother died in October of 2007 in Iowa and everything but a co-op apartment in Phoenix, AZ that she owned outright was in her trust. She was not able to put the co-op in the trust because of the co-op's rules. It had been for sale 3 months before she died and when I, as executor of the estate, mentioned the co-op to the lawyer who drew up her trust, nothing was said about taking it off the market after her death. The co-op has never sold. Are we legally able keep it up for sale, or do we have to go through probate? The price is under $35,000 and somewhere I read that property under a certain dollar amount is exempt or can be easily transferred with a simple affidavit. If we need to go through probate with it, do we have to get a lawyer in Arizona, or can an Iowa lawyer do it since she was a legal resident of Iowa and only spent winters in Phoenix? Thank you.

Fred Block - January 3, 2009 6:06 PM

My Aunt wishes to leave her farm in Iowa to her Grandson. She has 3 living children and one son has predeceased her (he has two children) She wants her grandson to pay the heirs (children) for their share of the farm after her death. It appears to me that the children will inherit the farm and then sell it to the grandson for a set price they have agreed upon. Can she dictate the sale in her will? The children all agree that the farm should be sold. Can she force the sale to her grandson? Will this need to be probated?

Matthew Gardner - January 9, 2009 8:39 AM

If the farm is just in her name at her death, then yes, it is likely necessary for probate. As to the question on forcing the sale of the farm, she could make the gift contingent upon entering into a sales agreement with the other family. Or, she could leave the farm in trust, avoid probate and give instructions to the trustee on selling the farm.

Lulu R. Langston - January 10, 2009 11:29 AM

My mother died, a resident of Texas, in August of 08. In her will she left a farm located in Iowa to me and my sister 50/50. My sister and I are both residents of Texas. Her will was probated in Texas and I am the exector. The farm has a value of over $500,000. To transfer the title, is it necessary to probate the will in Iowa ?

Jen C. - January 16, 2009 11:34 AM

My Uncle died in October 2005 and my aunt (his wife) died the next year. They had no children. I am one of four beneficiaries (nieces and nephews) of the estate. The majority of the estate has been distributed, but there are still loose ends to tie up, according to the estate attorney (executor), so it has not been finalized. It's been over three years since my uncle died and over two since my aunt died. Isn't this unusual? The attorney is very arrogant and has not been helpful to us at all. What can we do to get this estate finalized? It's terribly insulting to the memory of my uncle who befriended and trusted this attorney. What can I do? We all just want this thing to be over and done with!

Gary - January 19, 2009 5:01 PM

We have an attorney in Iowa who wishes to list an deferred annuity as an asset to probate. (Annuitant is deceased).
Am I correct in the fact that a annuity with a properly noted beneficiary or beneficiaries in Iowa is able to bypass probate and go direct to the named beneficiary as would a life insurance policy?

Matthew Gardner - January 21, 2009 10:02 AM

While the annuity may not be subject to probate court jurisdiction and bypasses probate, it will still be listed on the report and inventory that is filed in the probate proceedings.

Kris - January 22, 2009 12:06 PM

My mom passed away and my dad is the surviving spouse and everything was held jointly and he is the beneficiary of the life insurance policy ($1K face value) - we shouldn't have to go through Iowa Probate for that should we?

Kris - January 22, 2009 12:06 PM

My mom passed away and my dad is the surviving spouse and everything was held jointly and he is the beneficiary of the life insurance policy ($1K face value) - we shouldn't have to go through Iowa Probate for that should we?

Matthew Gardner - January 22, 2009 1:00 PM


Assuming we're talking about Iowa and from what you indicated, it probably is unlikely that you'll need to go through probate given the assets are passing outside of the probate process. However, if there were creditors involving your mother only, probate gives the opportunity to pull those creditors out and potentially dispense of their claims, if any. Also, depending on the estate tax exposure and your father's financial situation, there may be reasons to examine using a disclaimer to have assets "skip" your dad as the beneficiary and be redirected elsewhere.

Shelley Payne - February 19, 2009 2:55 PM

After a person dies, is there a time limit as to when the will goes into probate or is filed in the state of Iowa?

Ty Roth - March 14, 2009 9:51 AM

My recently deceased mother left a will naming me as her executor. I have two brothers. She left several CDs that were TOD accounts and those have already been divided and distributed to my brothers and me by the local bank and a financial securities firm. At the time of death she has been renting an apartment for 10 years and owned no property of any type. The only asset was her checking account. The bank has allowed me complete control over that account and the plan is for me to wait about 6-9 months to make sure everything is clear before writing three equal checks to be distributed to my brothers and myself before closing out the account. Question: Though my mom's attorney suggested this plan should work just fine others have suggested that there has to be an estate filed. The bank seemed comfortable with all of this but how about the courts? Will I need to feed that system or can we just call this process over and done with?

Shawn - April 12, 2009 2:28 PM

Mother died in Iowa March 2009. I was named executor but declined. Estate not opened. Credit Union which holds mortgage on her house does not want to expend the time and effort to remove her things and offered to let us enter property and clean out home. We all live out of state and declined. Now the credit union is saying we (or I) could continue making the house payments and live in the home. They don't care who's paying - just so it's paid. Home needs many, many improvements/repairs before sellable. She has many judgement liens against home for unpaid credit cards. I was told creditors within 5 years could force property into probate but most likely wouldn't. Am I facing any type of risk by making the house payments and living in the house? Could I get the title transferred several years later without probate? I don't want to break any laws but if it is merely a waiting game I would take the risk. Home was valued at $86k, balance on home $43k. Liens - unknown. Thanks for any advice.

tammie - April 23, 2009 8:44 PM

my brother passed on april 2nd. He has 1 child 18 yrs. The only asset he had was a checking account that has 2400.00 in it and a car worth $1,000. (No realestate) He owes credit card debt in the amount of $5,000 between 3 cards. Do we need to go thru probate?

Matthew Gardner - April 24, 2009 8:42 AM

You don’t indicate your state, so this information is only relevant to Iowa. No, probate is not required for non real estate assets of that dollar amount. However, to get the property (bank and car) out of his name will require a specific affidavit. The creditors would be entitled to be paid for the debt, but they may just ignore it as it is probably not worth pursuing for them. If you were to recover those assets, it is possible that the creditors could ask for that in the future. However, I wouldn’t pay any creditors without going through probate as you don’t know how much to pay them and you may not know about other creditors that may be out there.

gary s - May 8, 2009 7:16 PM

My father lived and passed away in Iowa about April 15, 2009. My brother has confiscated all of his property such as a car and apartment contents, and safe deposit box items which supposedly included some cash and a copy of my father's will. My brother is keeping the will a secret and is not telling any family members what property or assets were present at the time of Dad's death. He claims it is his privilege as he says he is named executor in the will.

What do we as the other surviving children need to do to make sure my Dad's valid will actually gets disposed of according to Iowa law? Specifically, if we need to do anything such as filing claims or petitions with the court, what are the filings needed and what are the deadlines for those filings? How do we make sure the property and the will are not simply brushed under the rug and diverted to my brother's personal use?

Any info is appreciated. We are afraid of missing any deadlines or due dates. Thanks!

ray alexander - May 29, 2009 12:59 AM

i am a co-adminstrater with my sister in our mothers estate. i live in iowa, and my brother lives in nevada. there is a house and several vehicles as assets, plus other items. my sister wants to come to iowa and take the cars and other items back to nevada to sell, i do not want this to happen, i want to inventory everything and then sell from iowa if decided. do i have the right to not let her take anything out of state to sell?

Matt Gardner - May 29, 2009 7:56 AM

It is possible that you may be able to prevent/object to the removal of assets from the state. Sometimes orders have requirements that the assets remain in Iowa in order to be subject to the court’s jurisdiction. You should consult with your attorney, if you have one. Finally, I’ll leave you with this section of the Iowa Code:

633.76 Two or more fiduciaries - exercise of powers.
Where there are two or more fiduciaries, they shall all concur in the exercise of the powers conferred upon them, unless the instrument creating the estate provides to the contrary. In the event that the fiduciaries cannot concur upon the exercise of any power, any one of the fiduciaries may apply to the court for directions, and the court shall make such orders as it may deem to be to the best interests of the estate.

Arathi - June 10, 2009 6:42 PM

A friend of mine who lived in Iowa the last 11 months passed away. Her assets are money in IRA, and other banks which is an amount of nearly 150 - 200k Will I need to go thru a probate and will I need to go thru it in Iowa only or any other state is ok?

Terri Torrence - July 6, 2009 5:18 PM

What is the designated time period allowed for creditors to file any claim against an estate?

Matt Gardner - July 7, 2009 8:45 AM


A creditor has until the later of: (1) four months after the date of the second publication of notice in a newspaper or (2) 30 days after notice is mailed to them. However, like many matters in the legal world, there are exceptions to these rules and you should consult with a legal advisor for your specific application.

Matt Gardner - July 7, 2009 8:49 AM


If Iowa was the permanent residence of the friend, you need to go through probate in the state of that residence. If there is property in another state, you may also need to go through ancillary probate in that state as well.

david shores - August 6, 2009 3:23 PM

My father, an Iowa resident passed away in May. I'm an Indiana resident... My sister, an Iowa resident ( half sister) was appointed administrator with my blessing. The only legal documents I have received as an heir was a copy of the notice to creditors (P-224). Do I as an heir need to take any action to assure myself of any inheritance due to me? Is this form sent to heirs as well as creditors? Do I need to take any action or file with the court clerk?

Matt Gardner - August 6, 2009 4:06 PM

Thanks for posting on our blog. Very good (& common) question. You can always request copies of the court documents from your sister or the attorney or directly from the court. You can also go to www.iowacourtsonline.com and see what has been filed with the courts.

You are entitled to an accounting for all activity in the estate from the date opened until closed and they can’t close the estate until that you either approve it or waive it.

The form you received is sent to heirs and creditors alike. Assuming your sister doesn’t take the position that you aren’t not an heir and close the estate, you should be fine. In many estates, it is not uncommon for there to be little activity or reason for communications. In fact, for the first 4 months, there is a general “freeze” on estate activity until the assets and creditors are fully known. An estate takes about on average a year to probate.

Alan - September 7, 2009 10:26 PM

When does a will become public record in Iowa? How would I obtain a copy at that time? Thanks.

Matt Gardner - September 8, 2009 8:07 AM

A will becomes public record in Iowa when it is filed with the clerk of court's death. By statute, if someone has possession of a person's will, they are required to file it with the clerk of court. Once filed, anyone can get a copy of it by contacting the clerk of court's office and paying any copy fees.

cliff - September 16, 2009 5:48 AM

My wifes mother passed away. Does probate need to know about CD's in our childrens name if the are either OR. Also what moneys that are already inherited does probate need to know about.

Matt Gardner - September 17, 2009 8:13 AM


Yes, in Iowa, all assets in which the decedent had an ownership interest should be disclosed on the probate inventory. When you say "already inherited", I'm not sure what you mean. If you referring to life insurance or another asset that was paid to a named beneficiary, then yes, that needs to be included. Joint assets need to be shown as well.

John - September 20, 2009 11:31 PM

This is admittedly a presumptuous question to direct to an attorney, but here goes. In the case of a simple estate, consisting of one in-state condo, a checking account, three investment accounts, amiable survivors who are not going to contest anything, and no debts, is it at all possible for reasonably intelligent co-executors to go through the probate process without an attorney? If so, what references could be used to understand the process? Or is the process so complicated that passing Probate 101 in law school is absolutely necessary? What attorney fee is reasonable for something straightforward like this?

Matt Gardner - September 21, 2009 9:51 AM

Fair question. And a common question.

With the advent of the internet, you can pretty much do anything on your own. (Brain surgery, tax returns, vasectomy, etc.) Whether it is cost effective or creates long-term problems can be another issue. The process isn't necessarily that "complicated". The issue is knowing what steps are necessary, when are they completed and what are the requirements for each step. (For example, you have opening the estate, publishing proper notice and giving notice, filing the inventory with the court, handling the transfer/sale of assets, tax returns for the estate and closing the estate.)

The clerk of court won't be much help as they are instructed to not give legal advice. I'm not aware of any Iowa-specific probate DIY publications. The Iowa Code, which is available online and in libraries, provides some of the requirements but it isn't set out in an easy to follow "manual" form. I'm not trying to drum up business, but just being honest in that I'm not aware of a resource that guides you through the various steps. I've had clients that have looked at doing it on their own, but they always come back to me at some point, normally before they can get started.

Attorney fees is a fair question. If you've seen my other blog posts on our site and at www.iowaestateplan.com, you'll see many attorneys will charge based upon the size of the estate. (Iowa Code caps the amount at 2% of the gross estate). I charge the lesser of my hourly rate or the 2%.

Let me know if there is anything further I can do or if I can be of assistance. We handle probate matters throughout the state of Iowa and would appreciate the opportunity to be of service to you.

R. Halbert - September 25, 2009 2:54 PM

In Iowa how can a relative not be mentioned in a will, but according to the decendent still " provide for that nephew." In 1999, my Aunt who told me that I was not mentioned in her will but would still be provided for. Also she told me that she wanted my inheritance ( CDs ? ) to be passed immediately to me upon her death. She also had two letters which I saw in the enclosing envelopes also in 1999. I wonder if these were placed in her letters of instruction.

Matt Gardner - September 28, 2009 1:02 PM

There are different ways in which someone can be "provided" for after one's death, but not actually listed in a will. Some examples include listing someone as a joint owner on an account or having them listed as a named beneficiary. Either of these result in property passing to someone else, regardless of a Will. However, there are tax issues to be aware of for Iowa decedents and this simplified "estate planning" can be dangerous.

Bill Le Clair - October 4, 2009 4:38 PM

Probate process in Iowa.
My father William G. Le Clair of Sioux City dies recently, September, and had left a will. I had asked my brother about it but I have yet to see it. How do I make sure that it has followed the proper probate process in Iowa? Which government agency do I need to contact.


Bill A. Le Clair


Unfortunately, there is not a government agency that gets involved. Once a will is filed by someone, the state courts and judges oversee the process. If there is a will, it is required that it be filed with the court by the person that has the will. In order to make someone file it when they fail to do so, however, requires that someone take the step to get the court involved to push the process. In other words, you may be the party that will need to take the initiative.

Matt Gardner

Phyllis Willis - November 14, 2009 12:21 PM

Hello and thank you for your web site. My dad passed away in Iowa on Oct. 26, 2009 he said he left his will at my brothers home in Las Vegas and he has said several times he does have a will. We were in Iowa the last 4 weeks before his death he died from cancer. He was very high functioning and died in his sleep. We did complete a power of attorney for finiancial and all other issues before he passed and my brother went to the bank and signed his name onto the account. Howeever after we got off the plane on Monday the 26th just after leaving him hours before, were he seemed very strong we were told by hospice he had passed. My brother signed onto my fathers checking account with my father consent thru the power of attorney for all fininacial. Their is a very small amount of money in the accout the bank stated my brother could not take out any of the money or close the account without a will or being named the executor. My father had some stock and a vehicle (paid for) that is it. Can we get access with the power of attorney to his account without going thru probate their is no one to contest the will to our knowledge. My fahter was a resident of Waterloo Iowa.

J. Lalk - November 14, 2009 3:06 PM

I have a question my grandmother passed away in December 2008 and left a will and we have been dealing with a lawyer in Iowa. The lawyer is stating that there is a mandatory fee of 20,000.00 for lawyer fees and we are wondering if this a state regulation.
Thank you,
Jennifer Lalk

Matt Gardner - November 16, 2009 8:24 AM

FALSE. The insinuation that there is a mandatory fee of 2% for attorneys is entirely inaccurate. On the Iowa Estate Plan blog, there is a post http://www.iowaestateplan.com/2007/08/iowa-attorney-fees-in-probate.html regarding attorney fees. The statute indicates that the 2% is the maximum, except in special situations. It is up to the court's discretion, but there is no regulation for a mandatory fee, until the court orders such a fee.

Matt Gardner - November 16, 2009 8:27 AM

As to use of a power of attorney in Iowa after the principal (the person that signed the power of attorney), that power to the individual acting on their behalf ends upon death of the principal. For small estates, there is a procedure to use an affidavit post-death to transfer assets. (I'll blog on that soon.) However, you should certainly be aware of any debts out there, especially if the decedent received any Medicaid benefits during their life, or their spouse did.

Phil n - December 14, 2009 5:43 PM

My mother died in march she had an insurance policy w/ beneficiary to my deceased brother/ sister in law she had the insurance company pay the funeral expences and sent the balance to the 6 heirs of the estate. does she have to pay any tax. and should this money paid to the funeral home be part of the inventory report for us to pay as part of the gross estate Phil Burl. ia.

Matt Gardner - December 15, 2009 8:35 AM


If I'm following your facts, I believe that the balance of the insurance payments that were made to the 6 heirs are gifts from your sister-in-law, IF she was the beneficiary of the policy. If the estate was the beneficiary, then no gift tax. Gifts above $13,000 per individual, per year in 2009 are taxable. The insurance would also be included on the inventory for the estate, although who the beneficiary is would also dictate whether it is included for court costs and attorney fees. To fully answer your questions, I would need additional information. Please feel free to contact me to discuss.

Phil n - December 15, 2009 10:35 AM

My sister in law was just the beneficiary of the insurance policy she was not named in the will. Her son was because the will stated that my brothers children get his share. my sister in law says that it is no ones bussiness that the money she got should not be entered into the inventory report and the lawyer should not get 2% of the insurance money.So does an outside beneficiary have to disclose their money to the lawyer for the estate to close and should the lawyer get the 2%of that money (under $10,000) Thanks Phil Burl. Ia.


That policy was an asset of the decedent and should be listed on the inventory. As to whether it is considered for the attorney's fee depends on the beneficiary designation of the policy.

Matt Gardner

Tim - January 19, 2010 8:25 PM

My mother-in-law recently passed away and my wife is named general power of attorney in their will. She has two brothers. Her father, my father-in-law is in a nursing home with Alzheimers. They owned their home jointly at my mother-in-laws passing. Their attorney went to the nursing home without the consent of family to have my father-in-law sign papers removing my mother-in-law from the deed. My father-in-law has no understanding of what he signed. Is this legal and was it necessary to have my mother-in-law removed from the deed in Iowa?

Matt Gardner - January 20, 2010 7:19 AM

If your mother-in-law was on the deed, she can't be removed during her life without her consent. However, at her passing any ownership rights that she had passed automatically to her husband, with or without any documentation. There is an affidavit that can be filed which establishes that a joint tenant is deceased and provides record of the surviving joint owner. That may have been what was signed, but it is odd to handle it in that fashion.

B. Ihns - January 29, 2010 2:51 PM

If the estate is only worth approximately $4000.00, do we need to go through probate? He has no real estate and there is a will.

Matt Gardner - February 1, 2010 8:30 AM

If the total estate assets are less than $25,000.00, and there is no real estate, you can provide an Affidavit for Distribution of Property to someone holding funds in order to have those funds distributed and not go through probate. However, probate also deals with who the heirs/beneficiaries are, if there is a question about that. Probate also deals with creditors that may be out there.

Ter - March 18, 2010 5:38 PM

I am said to be mentioned in my Grandfathers will, as well as other grand children. Since I am an heir, will I be notified before the end of the probate process? It has been in probate for just over a year now. All of this is a bit confusing, can you please answer this question.

foregotn1 - March 27, 2010 1:37 PM

a relative of mine died, no spouse and adult children.. recently in March and left no will or other names on the deed of their home or banking accounts. the bank froze the accounts and the children are not able to get the money out for funeral expenses. Medicare sent a letter saying the were going to take the house and bank accounts to pay medical expenses that her private medical insurance doesn't pay. how can that happen when no bills have been sent? how can medicare step in like this especially when they haven't filed any legal papers yet...neither have the children? what advise can you please offer? thank you so much

joy - March 29, 2010 7:49 AM

My father-in-law passed away 12 years ago. He and his wife held 400 acres in joint tenancy. Recently we discovered that his name is still on 3 parcels of the ground (tax papers). The attorney says that we must open his estate and go through probate on these parcels to remove his name. We were not involved at the time of his death; but thought that there was no probate necessary since the ground was in both names. Is this correct?

Matt Gardner - March 29, 2010 8:22 AM


I'll assume you are addressing Iowa questions.

You should clarify whether the property was owned as "tenants-in-common" (TIC) or "joint tenancy with full rights of survivorship and not as tenants-in-common". Look at the actual deed (which you can get from the county Recorder's office) for verification.

However, no matter which way it is titled, given that your father-in-law passed away 12 years, Iowa law does not allow you to probate his estate. Iowa Code 633.331 requires probate within 5 years of death.

Short answer: You likely don't have to go through probate to clear title. However, you should check with another attorney for specifics on your situation.

Matt Gardner - March 29, 2010 8:31 AM


Rather than "Medicare", I suspect that you are referring to "Medicaid". Medicaid Estate Recovery is a government-mandated program where that organization is capable of recovering assets as repayment of government benefits that were paid on behalf of the decedent. Typically, those assets were exempt during the life of the decedent and enabled them to receive Medicaid health care benefits. However, at their death, the government is entitled to seek reimbursement from the estate and they do have statutory authority to recover. Go to www.iowa-estates.com for additional information.

Susan - April 6, 2010 1:50 AM

My mother in law, an Iowa resident, passed away in December. For years my husband was named as executor of her estate. Approximately a year before her death, she changed the executor to my sister in law because my sister in law told her it was illegal for her to have an out of state executor. (My husband and I were living in Wisconsin at that time.) My husband does not have much of a relationship at all with his sister due to ongoing "problematic" behavior on her part that he refuses to subject himself or his family to any further. To say she is known to be nasty, dishonest, greedy and overall difficult would be a true understatement of the behaviors we have known. We have many concrete reasons to believe that she would cheat him out of his half of his inheritance if she could. She has refused to share ANY details concerning the will, inventory, etc...She has disposed of all of my mother in laws belongings in her home without even notifying my husband so he could be a part of it. She has refused to let us even copy family pictures and recipes for our daughters senior project at school, citing her duties as executor prohibit her from doing so etc...She has made it perfectly clear that SHE is the executor and it is up to her and only her IF OR WHEN my husband gets anything at all. My question is, Will probate ensure that he receives his inheritance and she won't be able to cheat him out of it? Also, how does the probate court know if the inventory list is accurate or if she has left things out on it? We are a bit skeptical since it was our understanding from reading your blog that heirs are to be notified. He has yet to receive any notice of any sort and the 2nd publishing occured 2 months ago. At this point, he doesn't know what he can do to protect his interest. It is a sizable estate, 1+ million in assests. Is this a wait and see situation or is there anything he can do to make sure it is handled not only correctly but in accordance with what my dear parents in law wanted for each of their adult children? Any insight or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Matt Gardner - April 8, 2010 4:22 PM


You have raised several issues. First is the notification requirement. Attorneys handle this differently. Some will notify the heirs/beneficiaries immediately. That starts the "clock" ticking to any challenge to the will. Some won't notify you until later in the process, maybe even towards the end.

As far as protecting your husband's interest, you could seek to remove the current executor (but you need some basis to do so, not just suspicion). Also, you have the right to have an accounting of all sums/assets received and disbursed out of the estate. Often, the parties will waive that requirement, but you have the legal right to receive that, which, again, is not until the end of administration. Request it.

As to whether everything is included? You need to know, or find someone who does know, what was there before the death. It is difficult to show something was not included if you don't know what it is. You could request copies of prior year tax returns, bank statements, etc.

As far as the "control" issue, the executor does have control to administer the estate. However, they do have to answer to the court if the court requests it. Also, your leverage is at the end. They can't be discharged until you either sign off on their work or the court signs off on their work after considering your objections.

You may want to get an attorney involved to communicate with her attorney and keep some of the personal "issues" out of the mix. Good luck with this challenging situation.

Matt Gardner

Barb - April 8, 2010 8:16 PM

Question: My dad recently passed away and had no assets -- I was joint owner on his checking account. Do I need to file anything or go through probate?

Answer: I'm sorry to hear about your father's passing. Joint account assets pass automatically to the surviving joint owner. There is no reason to go through probate in order to transfer this joint asset. You may want to be aware that if your dad was receiving Medicaid benefits, the State may have a claim for repayment. Also, if there are any creditors, they may look to file a claim.

Matt Gardner

Ang - April 9, 2010 10:15 AM

(Iowa) Are you able to tell me if it is possible to remove an executor without them being notified? Example remove them and appoint the successor?---mind you ZERO notice provided to the original executor appointed in the will??? Also, when this happened it is a conflict of intrest for the original attorney to still work on the estate?

Angie - April 9, 2010 10:31 AM

Could you tell me if it is possible to remove an executor without any notice to that executor? It appears as if a successor was appointed without any notice at all given to the original executor appointed in the will nor to any of the other beneficaries to dispute--is that possible? Also is it a conflict of interest for the original attorney to continue to work on the case along side another attorney--mind you the entire time not notifying the original executor.
One other question, the new executor wishes to purchase some real estate in the estate which he paid for appraisal with estate funds and the proposed purchase price is well below what is is worth--is this not again a conflict and the executor attempting to profit from the estate? Sorry one more question, what if there are still outstanding debts owed on the estate (example prior to any money being in the estate) taxes, funeral expenses paid by one of would be beneficaries--should these not be resolved prior to the larger assets being sold? (this is in Iowa)
Thanks for your help.

Matt Gardner - April 11, 2010 6:46 PM


You raise several questions that really need more information to be clarified and addressed. It sounds like somehow the successor executor was appointed over the primary. That doesn't seem right. I'm sorry, but I'm not too sure I follow the attorney conflict question.

As to the purchase of real estate, it is permitted, but it needs to be handled very carefully, court approval, etc. Again, more information is probably necessary. (How do we know the appraisal is not accurate?)

I would encourage you to contact Iowa legal counsel to address many of these issues. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Matt Gardner

Kyle Van Meter - April 15, 2010 11:30 AM

My Grandmother who was an Iowa resident died in 1989 leaving a Will that was never entered into probate.

Are we still able to have an attorney enter the Will for probate such that recently discovered assets listed in her name only can be transfered to the persons she has named in her Will?



Matt Gardner - April 15, 2010 12:00 PM


Iowa Code § 633.331 limits a probate of a will to five years after the death. Thus, with these facts, you would be unable to admit the will to probate. Was there previously any probate of her estate? (without the will). There may be other methods for obtaining those assets. You should consult with an Iowa attorney for more information.

Susan - April 27, 2010 2:12 PM

Shortly before my mother in laws passing she added her daughter, my sister in law, onto her checking and savings accounts. Am I safe to assume that these accounts are joint survivor accounts since they were not "frozen" by the bank upon my mother in laws death? If so, does this mean that these monies are not subject to being included in her estate and are not awarded to the other beneficiary? Does my sister in law just get to keep these funds since her name was added to the accounts? Also, could you please explain the purpose of the executix becomming bonded? My sister in law, who happens to be the executix, posted a 10,000 bond with the court. Is this a common or even a mandatory practice in Iowa probate court? Who and what determines the amount of the bond? Finally, what happens to the bond once the estate is closed? Is this the same type of guarantor bond that is "purchased" through a bondsman in criminal proceedings? Thanks for any help you might be able to provide. Love your blog! Very informative.

Susan - April 27, 2010 2:26 PM

At what point during the settling of an estate that is in probate, can the deceased persons home be listed and sold? Is it during the 120 day waiting period or after this time frame? Also, must the house be sold in order to close the estate and before any beneficiaries receive their inheritance? And what exactly is the next step in probate proceedings after the 120 waiting days? Thank you for your help.

Matt Gardner - April 27, 2010 3:59 PM


Some general comments to your questions:
(1) Bank accounts may be joint accounts that pass automatically to the other owner outside the estate. They are reported in the probate proceedings, but pass directly to the joint owner.
(2) Purpose of a bond for a probate matter is to protect the creditors/heirs from the personal representative stealing the estate assets. It is basically an insurance policy that they will follow the law and distribute the assets as they are required to do.
(3) Bonds are required, but there are exceptions. Most wills waive the requirement of a bond. Unless all of the heirs consent in writing or if the will waives it, a bond is required.
(4) The amount of the bond is based upon information supplied to the court as to the value of income and personal property in the estate. Based upon that information, the court fixes the bond amount. If the values are later determined to be higher, the court can increase the bond amount. Typically, bond premiums are paid for one year.
(5) After the estate is closed and the court has signed off on closing the estate, any unused portion of the bond premium is refunded. It is an estate expense, so the premium would be distributed to the beneficiaries as an asset.
(6) Assets can be sold. The waiting period concerns the filing of notices and contests and no distributions can be made in that period. The facts and circumstances would dictate whether the property could be sold immediately (but no distributions out of the estate.)
(7) The assets do not need to be sold. Rather than liquidating them, they could be distributed "in kind" to the heirs/beneficiaries. What this means is that each recipient gets a piece of the asset. (3 heirs would then own a 1/3 interest in the house for example.) However, sometimes you need to liquidate assets in order to pay the debts, taxes, expenses, etc.

Susan, you have a lot of questions and as I don't have a lot of facts/information, these general comments may not be applicable to your situation. You may want to consider retaining legal counsel for advice directly related to your situation. Good luck.

Kay - May 2, 2010 12:28 AM

in preparations related to my father's upcoming brain surgery, I am researching what to expect legally if he were to pass...specifically whether his estate would go to probate. My parents have joint ownership of a house and car (neither paid off yet), his personal property (other than the house and car) is probably valued at less than $15,000 (a guess--he doesn't own much) and would be left entirely to my mom in a will (or no will---I'm encouraging him to make one), and his only debt is a PLUS loan, in only his name, that he makes monthly payments of $550 on (which I understand would be discharged upon receiving notice of his death.)But he did get an extension for paying his federal income tax for 2009 and am not sure he will have them done before his risky surgery.They are Iowa residents and have never used Medicaid. Would we be able to avoid probate if he were to die under these financial circumstances? Probate sounds like an unnecessary headache for such a small estate. Any advice you have for keeping this simple for them during this hard time would be much appreciated! Thank you so much for your time!

Mr. Martin - May 11, 2010 12:15 PM

My dad has just died and in his will he left everything
( what is left of the family farm in Iowa ) to his wife, our mother. Dad had received 28,000 in title 19 help, now that he has died the collection of that by the state has been put off till his wife dies, mother is going to do her will in a few days, can she leave the property to her disabled son who has lived there taking care of dad for more than 2 years and put off the title 19 collection till our brother dies? And when he dies, can his home be sold to pay the title 19 money . WE are just trying to keep the old family farm in the family as long as we can.
thanks you for your help

Matt Gardner - May 12, 2010 6:46 AM


With this scenario, it is likely not necessary to go through probate to transfer assets. Besides transferring assets, probate also: (1) establishes a will as a valid will; (2) if there is no will, establishes who the heirs are (that isn't always as clear as you might suspect); and (3) cuts off the rights of creditors if they fail to file a claim. Thus, if these other situations are applicable, probate, even for a small estate, could be necessary.

I wish your father good luck in his surgery.

Matt Gardner

Matt Gardner - May 12, 2010 6:59 AM

Mr. Martin-

Please accept our sympathies on the loss of your father. Your scenario presents an interesting set of facts, but it could be possible to continue to defer the Title IXX debt. There may be some concerns over a bequest to a disabled individual. For example, the impact on his eligibility for public benefits; his ability to receive, hold and manage farmland.

Gloria - May 16, 2010 11:08 AM

My mother has a will leaving her estate to her 7 children. One of her children is deceased and there is no mention of how she wanted his share divided. Am I correct in assuming his share would go to his children?
Also, she has about $120,000 in 2 accounts in her and my name. Her only other asset is $2,000 in another savings account. Do the joint savings account go into her estate? If not, I still have every intention of dividing up that money among my siblings. If the money is then mine, does it become subject to gift tax instead of inheritance tax laws?
Thanks so much for your information.

Matt Gardner - May 25, 2010 9:21 PM


Unless there is a requirement of survival indicated, the children would inherit their parent's share. However, you should have the will properly reviewed by an expert to confirm that there isn't such a requirement.

As to the joint accounts, they are included in the estate for reporting purposes, but they are not subject to the estate administration process. As a child, you do not have inheritance tax owed. Joint accounts pass automatically to the surviving joint owner. If you were to make transfers to your siblings, there may be a taxable gift from you, so you should be careful in making those transfers. Hope this helps.

Wendy Holland - May 27, 2010 2:32 PM

My father recently passed away. I was not notified by his side of the family. I have now discoved that his family has opened his estate in probate court claiming that my father had "no known heirs". I was never notified of his death and have been attempting to contact his siblings or nephews regarding his death for months. Can they claim he does not have an heir when they know I am his child? If so, what should I do?

Thank you
Wendy Holland

Matt Gardner - May 27, 2010 2:52 PM


You have a very interesting, and possibly challenging, situation. You need to enter some sort of appearance as soon as possible with the court so that the court file will reflect you existence. Then, you should immediately contact the individual handling the estate (called either the administrator or executor) and put them on notice, in writing. You should also consider getting legal counsel to represent you in this matter. I don't know what their rationale is for denying your existence.

Matt Gardner

Heather - June 15, 2010 10:06 PM

My mother passed- my brothers home is owned by her, not jointly, and he has been paying the mortgage. He thinks since its in her name he should be able to buy it from the estate for what is owed- then that money divided between him and I. That means he would would get the house for half the price. He can't do that can he? This is in Ia and he is executor. How should it be done? I owe her a amout of $3000- which i feel i still need to pay back- would I then get $1500 back as inheritatence also? And then there is a friend of my mothers who owed my mother about $40000 but there is no proof only the copies of the checks written- is there any way of getting that money? Or did her friend make off with our inheritance? Thank you!

Pam - June 18, 2010 7:54 PM

My father pased away in Jan 2010. His wife has all of whatever estate there is. The money came from land left to him by my grandparents & sale of another parcel purchased from another heir of the original. They were married when this occurred and he lived & farmed the land several years before they were together. I got nothing from land that was in my family for 100 years. I don't even know if there was really a will as I haven't seen it. It is quite a lot of money I'm sure plus a house thats also paid for. Is it worth getting an attorney to sue for part of the money?

Lynn Larson - June 20, 2010 2:32 PM

My father passed away on March 23rd he was unmarried with no real estate in Iowa. My grandmother also had passed away in Jan 2010. I have a twin who did not let me know my father was in the hosptial until 15 mins before he died. My dad died without a will. My grandmother bypassed my father and left me out entirely and left her farm and all of her items to my brother. My father had been living there for the last 13 years taking care of her. Her will and estate was filed. Probate was opened for my dad's estate with my brother as the executor on 5/19. On 5/22 my brother had an estate sale of under my grandmothers name and also sold all of my dad's items as well. I was told by the auctioneer that there was a seperate accounting. So far I have received nothing at all from anyone in regards to this sale, the probate process although the clerk stated I was listed as an heir. My brother refuses to let me have my dad's bible or paintings. Shouldn't I have been notified by someone? I wouldn't have known his funeral if I hadn't found it on google. He didn't have much so most is sentimental. ANy cash from the sale of his woodworking items I assume Medicaid will take since the probate was opened for him. His estate was probably under 10,000K. Again my brother designated most of my dad's items as my grandmothers items in the inventory. What can I do about this situation and what exactly should be going on? Thank you.

Matt Gardner - July 3, 2010 1:32 PM


You have several questions which are pretty, what we call, "fact intensive". In other words, more details are needed. I would recommend that you contact an attorney for guidance on these questions. Please note that the attorney for the estate represents the executor and not the "estate" or the beneficiaries/heirs.

Matt Gardner - July 3, 2010 1:39 PM


As a child, there is no entitlement to the benefits from a parent's death. Some initial questions: how was the land owned? Jointly? If there is no will and it isn't joint, you have some claim under the Iowa intestate statute through the probate process. More information is needed in order to give you a full answer.

Otherwise, I'm not sure on what basis you would have to bring suit.

Sherri - July 8, 2010 8:28 PM

My husband signed a quitclaim deed making us both named on the deed. The quitclaim deed did not specify tenancy in common, joint tenancy or survivorship. His will reads that his estate will go to me. If tenancy is not stated then am I corrected in believing that I inherit his half of our house? The state is Iowa.

Matt Gardner - July 12, 2010 7:24 AM


If a deed does not specifically state "joint tenants with full rights of survivorship" then your husband's 1/2 interest will pass according to his estate plan. If his will provides that you receive everything, then you would inherit his interest in that land. However, you may need to probate his will in order to establish your ownership rights. You should contact Iowa counsel for specific advice on your situation.

Janis - July 16, 2010 1:31 AM

My sister passed away about 7 months ago. There were four of us and we inherited undivided farm land from our parents about 10 years ago. My sister was never married; had no children. In addition to my sister passing,one brother passed about six years ago leaving a wife and three children. I have one child; my other brother has three. An attorney is supposed to be handling the estate. My nephew was willing to be administrator. This attorney has done nothing toward this to my knowledge or anything else as far as her estate is concerned, and getting the land divided as it should have been long ago. While my sister-in-law, as surviving spouse, inherited from our parents, the attorney says in the case of my sister, it must go to the children rather than my sister-in-law. Is this true? Nothing has been done about my nephew being appointed administrator; no assets gathered (basically just some cash and real estate), no bills paid. I have not received one word from this attorney although I have written him twice. Does this sound right to you? What is needed to be done to get my nephew appointed administrator that should take this long? I heard the funeral home has sued and I'm sure other creditors will be. At the least, they will no doubt be charging interest. This isn't even mentioning inheritance taxes which I heard will be due next month-obviously can't be paid so I'm assuming we're talking penalty as well as interest. I don't feel we have to set and take this. What can we do?

Matt Gardner - July 19, 2010 7:29 AM


From what you have indicated, it doesn't sound like this is being handled the best. Your nephew is technically the client for the attorney. If the attorney is non-responsive to the nephew, then he should terminate the engagement and locate new counsel. It doesn't take long to get a personal representative appointed and with the tax bill coming due soon, there is a certain sense of urgency here. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

stuart - July 20, 2010 3:16 PM

last parent recently passed away testate in state of iowa. will specficies siblings to share equally in estate.. assets include accounts held at various financial institutions.. different siblings are specified as beneficiaries at the different institutions.. what takes precidence or how should things be divided in probate??

Matt Gardner - July 26, 2010 3:11 PM


The beneficiary designated on the accounts will take precedence over the provisions in the will. While designating a beneficiary is easy and can avoid probate, sometimes it may not result in "equivalent" treatment.

Kathy Graham - August 6, 2010 12:02 PM

My mother died in Iowa, my brothers are executors. When I spoke with my brother he indicated that everything was done 2 months ago. There has been no distribution. How can this be???

Shay - August 14, 2010 10:16 AM

My mom passed in February 2010, I have a sibbling who has moved in the Estate, against the will of all other siblings. The sibling has rented out the Estate and has removed and sold practically 100% of all assets. I have an attorney, but am not being advised regarding how I can protect the remiander of the Estate, which pretty much is the structure. Currently, any sibling who goes to the Estate has to be escoreted by the police. There are several police reports documenting his volitile behavior. His recent activity includes changing the locks on the Estate. What rights do we have as siblings? I am in the process of being assigned administrator. I also, talked to my attorney about getting an injunction. My attourney has been of no help.

KAREN - August 20, 2010 5:49 PM

MY uncle died in May and left his estate (small) to my sister and myself. He and his stepson owned a house and had some bank accounts jointly. These had belonged to the stepson, Terry's mother. We haven't the slightest problem with this as it's proper for her estate to pass to her only son. The attorney is listing all property and moneys on the inventory. Our problem is he says we must pay 2% on a 200,000 estate which basically went to Terry. When we're done with medical bills there will be approximiately $14,000 left for us to split. Do we have to pay the probate fee for the house and joint accounts that had nothing to do with us? Thanks.

Matt Gardner - August 22, 2010 9:01 PM


Maybe there was no money to distribute after bills and expenses? Were you a beneficiary? You should have at least received notice. You should either contact them to get more information or have an attorney investigate further.

Matt Gardner - August 22, 2010 9:06 PM


Until you have terminated your attorney's relationship and established an attorney-client relationship, I have to limit my comments. Generally speaking, the court-appointed personal representative has the ability to recover and take control of estate property.

Matt Gardner - August 22, 2010 9:12 PM


This is a common concern. The statute that covers court costs, attorney fees, and personal representative fees includes those assets as well. In fact, there are relatively few assets that are excluded. (Life insurance to a named beneficiary is one common one.)

flo - August 23, 2010 11:01 AM

My dad passed away in July and his only estate was a checking acct w/ no beneficiary, his truck which was transferred on death to my brother, and a ATV which was jointly held w/ his brother. I just received a bill from Iowa medicaid for the estate reimbursement but my dad's checking only had about $2,000 in it which doesn't cover the bill; what do i need to do?
Thank you.

Diana - August 24, 2010 10:54 AM

When a spouse dies and there is real estate owned by both husband/wife in Iowa, can the survivor sell the property during the probate process or do they have to wait until the estate is settled? Thank you for your assistance!

Matt Gardner - August 25, 2010 7:00 AM


Assuming the debt is legit, let Medicaid recovery have the checking account, but let them do the work. You aren't obligated to pay the shortage (unless you have your dad's assets).

Matt Gardner - August 25, 2010 7:02 AM

If the property is owned jointly, the property isn't subject to the probate process. Even if it is subject to the probate process, you can sell it during the estate administration. Depending on the situation, there may be court approval necessary first, however.

lance - August 29, 2010 4:10 PM

what is the fastest time in which an estate (with a will) can be closed after death in Iowa? My mother in law died 12-31-09 . We live in another state and my wife (a daughter) doesn't know how long she has to "settle" things "by agreement" with the rest of the siblings. One sibling lives in Iowa. Of course they can always settle up "by the will" in court but they are trying to work things out by handshakes and agreements without the court over personal effects (big value items are jointly titled)....if they cannot agree what is the earliest that the Iowa sibling who is the personal representative (executor) who is named in the will can "force" something to happen and does it involve personal service on her or can it involve mail or newspaper publication only???? Thanks

Matt Gardner - August 29, 2010 5:25 PM


I'm not entirely positive I'm following your question, but here are some general comments:
You have five years after date of death to probate a will in the state of Iowa. After 5 years, too late. If a will is admitted to probate in that five year period, the executor can take steps to act quickly. However, there is a notice period for challenges to the will and creditors to file claims. That notice period is 4 months after the second publication or one month after mailing notice, whichever is later. After that notice period, you can take steps to close the estate. On average, it takes about 1 year to close an estate in my experience. Probably the fastest it could happen is about 6-7 months, but you really need cooperation and have everything click pretty smoothly. Hope this helps

lori - September 7, 2010 3:06 PM

my husband recently passed away, being only 29 he did not have a will, but everything (the house and the cars) are in both our names. The police are still investigating the accident he died in and i have not recieved the death certificate yet.
my questions are:
when will our posessions go into probate?
he did have life insurance, and i am named as the sole benifiacary, will this be counted towards his estate?
will the state provide me with a lawyer, or is it a better idea to find one for myself? and if so, when should i start that process?
i realize that is alot of questions, but being a young widow i have no idea how the process works, or even to ask. thank you in advance!

jeff peterson - September 7, 2010 3:24 PM

My father and step mother prepaired wills in 1995 stating the surviving spouse gets everything after that it would be split equally among the 5 children. My step mother has not worked in 30 years. when she did work it was as a cashier at the salvation army. My father died in 2003. He was worth about 2 million. My step mother had the will changed in 2005 leaving everything to her only child. (My step sister)Leaving nothing for my fathers 4 sons. Is their any chance of contesting and winning or are we S.O.L.

Matthew Gardner - September 7, 2010 7:13 PM


First, please accept my sympathies on your horrible loss.

As to your questions, it may not be necessary to go through the probate process. The probate process handles assets that a deceased owned at their death. Jointly owned assets or assets that have a named beneficiary pass automatically to those individuals. As far as your personal possessions, there is really no need to deal with probate for those assets. If there was a car accident and a lawsuit were to be filed against a negligent driver, you may need to open up a probate estate.

As to the other questions, the state will not assign a lawyer, it is entirely up to you to select one (if you need to get one.) To find a lawyer, ask for referrals from friends or family. Or research on the Internet for knowledgeable attorneys (like those on the www.iowa-lawblog.com).

Finally, you should also get your own personal affairs in order as well. I wish you the best of luck in the future in this difficult time.

Matthew Gardner - September 7, 2010 7:17 PM


Second marriage situations can be incredibly challenging. As a planner, I always address this sensitive topic, although often the answer is "we'll treat all kids the same".

Unless you can show that your stepmother was (1) unduly influenced to sign her will or (2) she did not have sufficient mental capacity to sign a will, you are likely SOL.

Derek - September 22, 2010 11:18 AM

How long does one have to Probate a will in Iowa? When someone does not it goes back to heirs thru Probate correct (to find their interest)?

Sue - October 3, 2010 7:15 PM

My biological father recently passed away in Iowa. His will left everything to his second wife, after which my sister and I are listed as heirs. As a result, it is pretty clear that our step-mom gets all of the assets. The house, however, is a bit less clear, as it was owned by the two of them as tenants in common (rather than JTROS). My sister and I believe we have some ownership of the home - which could be worth a significant amount. His wife is hoping to sell the home, but she doesn't have clear title without us signing off. If she probates his will, what is likely to happen to our interest? Thanks for your input!

thomas - October 7, 2010 9:15 PM


My father in-law passed away about 2 1/2 weeks ago. at this time my brother in law decided he was going to be the "executor". since that time he has refused to inform the four additional siblings of all the asset values, nor allowed them access to bank statements, 401K, INS policies etc. In fact there are ins policies and a savings account he denies exist, OR at least refuses to verify they exist. My brother in law lives in nebraska, while my father in-law lived in Iowa. Also two of the siblings also live in the same town in iowa. To cut to the chase, if there is no will who determines executor, can one "apoint themselves". 2. How does one determine that the executor is listing ALL assets? Finally, doesnt the executor need to be an Iowa resident?

Thank you very much!!

Matt Gardner - October 8, 2010 3:24 PM


Generally, the first to file for appointment will be appointed. If there is a spouse or children, there is a priority level before another person can be appointed. If more than one child, the first to file can be appointed. The statute provides that if an out of state PR is serving, an in-state should be appointed as well. However, this is commonly waived by the court, although the court can impose certain requirements, such as funds have to stay in state. There should have been a bond posted as well for the PR, unless everyone waived it.

Matt Gardner - October 11, 2010 7:14 AM


Your father's 1/2 interest in the house (as a tenant-in-common) would pass according to his will. If your father's will left everything to your step-mom, then that 1/2 interest would pass to your step-mom as well. If your father did not have a will, it could be a different result under the intestate statute. The will will need to be probated in order to get clear title, however.

Don - November 1, 2010 11:38 AM

My father recently passed away. My mother is still living and everything passed on to her. Dad never believed in banks so there is about 100,000 dollars in money and silver in the house. I am one of 5 children and live a distance from my Mom. I have a brother who is slowly taking thing from the house and turning my Mom away from 3 of us. He has neighbors calling when they see us there and he makes sure we are not with her by ourselves for too long. He has a problem with the truth and so does my Mom. Since the money was never in a bank , Mom is able to take advantage of Title 19 and various other things. My brother is on her checking account and basically is getting everything in order for him to inherited everything. Is there anyway to stop his actions or do we have to just keep a record of what he is doing for future refereces. This is tearing apart our family, he could care less. Thank you for your time

Steve - November 1, 2010 1:33 PM

Our 23 year old son died in a car accident recently, there is no will. He only had two vehicles, a small checking account, and two outstanding loans less than 12,000 total. The insurrance from the accident will pay off everything,do we need to hire a lawyer or can we handle this ourselves?

cindy - November 10, 2010 5:40 PM

My dad died in 03 my mom died in 09. Dad had a pending medical lawsuit, mom was beneficiary to it. Lawyers now state that it is part of my moms estate. estate lawyer states he cannot close moms estate until they get a accurate amount into what type of money is coming in. This could go on for another 10 years (lawsuit)All property has been distributed and no bills are due. Also, mom owned her home, which has not been sold yet. Me and my brother are executors and we want it closed. Lawyer is billing for major money but now wants us to sign a interloctutory report. we just want to pay him close the estate out and put house in our names. (this is in the state of Iowa). How can we get him to do this? He seems to not tell us everything and over charge us for everything. Help

Matt Gardner - November 11, 2010 12:36 PM


This is obviously a frustrating situation for you. I have some questions and general ideas that I'll try to summarize, but without knowing all of the specifics, I cannot give you a definitive answer or advice.

The real estate can be distributed out of an estate after the claims period has expired and arrangements made for final expenses/fees. Assuming that is the case, it should be distributed.

Attorney fees in probate are subject to court approval before payment. I'm assuming that your estate attorney obtained court approval on his fees.

The rights to the lawsuit can be assigned to the beneficiaries and allow you to close the estate. If there are 20 beneficiaries, that could complicate the situation. If it is just you and your brother, you should be able to assign out those rights to yourselves and close.

The attorney may be keeping the case open for the med mal claim to adjust his 2% fee. (Attorneys are permitted to have their fees based upon the size of the estate. See other posts by me.) If that is the case, negotiate with the attorney to resolve fees or fire him.

In the end, you are the client and you have the power to hire/fire legal counsel. You need to do what you feel is best, but you should consult with new counsel after providing all relevant details. Good luck.

Matt Gardner - November 11, 2010 12:46 PM


This may be a case of elder financial abuse. If you believe that your brother is stealing or improperly taking funds, you can notify the Iowa Department of Health Services and they can investigate. I don't know enough facts to determine if there are truly grounds for an investigation.

As for fraud, you can report the facts and the State may investigate if Title XIX benefits are being received. There are serious penalties.

If nothing comes out of that situation, you can attempt to establish a conservatorship for your mom, assuming she is not able to handle her own affairs. She can object. This is a challenging process if she does object.

Finally, you can bring a claim after her death against your brother for interference with your inheritance, undue influence in setting aside her will, etc. However, if she is getting Title XIX benefits, they will have a lien for any of her assets in her estate and will want repaid.

If your mom is capable/competent and not unduly influenced, you are limited in being able to change anything.

This is general information only and should not be considered legal advice until you have entered into an engagement agreement.

Matt Gardner - November 11, 2010 12:48 PM


I'm sorry for your loss. With small matters, you should be able to handle this on your own, although you may need some particular forms to deal with some of the bank accounts. Everyone has different levels of ability so it is hard to discern what each is capable of. Good luck.

Matt Gardner - November 11, 2010 12:53 PM


There is a five year period (after their death) in which to probate someone's will. If there are assets after 5 years, then it would depend on the asset as to how it would be transferred.

Linda - December 1, 2010 8:23 PM

My brother-in-law passed away October 2010. He did not have a will; but told his son (20 yrs old) and my husband that he wanted my husband to handle his affairs. He had a mobile home in really bad shape, a life insurance policy ($10,000) and a 401k. He also has a 14-yr old son. My brother-in-law was divorced from the son's mother. I'm estimating that all of his bills can be paid with monies available. My brother-in-law wanted any remaining dollars after all the bills are paid to be set aside for the boys equally until they turn 21. Would we have to go through probate.

Michael - January 2, 2011 11:43 PM

My mother passed away in Iowa last year. Her will has gone through probate and we are in the final stages. I have been sent form P-230 Receipt, Consent, and Waiver of Notice by the lawyer of my mother's executor. Am I required to sign this even though there has been no distribution of funds from her will to date? Looking forward to you advice. Michael

Angel - January 10, 2011 8:33 PM

My parents (Iowa residents) died in 2010 leaving the family farm and assets in a trust until the last surviving child (there are 10 of us) dies. Is there a statue of limitations in Iowa regarding trusts? One of my brothers believes a trust cannot exist beyond 21 years. Also, can the executors of the will distribute specific bequests (e.g. a $15k payment to one brother) before the will is probated? And, the reason we were told they chose to place the farm in a trust was to protect the farm at time of probate. If our parents only had an outstanding mortgage of $50k on a 400 acre farm, what expenses would have incurred if the estate was not in a trust? We know it was our parents intention that their ten children enjoy the proceeds from the farm (leasing the land, selling timber, Federal programs) after their death but the way the will reads only the grandchildren will see any of the principal and the two executors, who are also trustees, will receive fees for maintaining the farm leaving the other eight children nothing during their lifetime. Our parents signed their wills within a year of each other when my father was suffering from dementia and my mother was suffering from late stage emphezema and on anti-anxiety medicines. Is it possible that they and the siblings who encouraged them to change the will (which appears at first blush to benefit them because they receive the bulk of the estate) not understand the trust and its implications? The will does not look like it was created by an attorney but rather from something cut and pasted from the internet.

Matt Gardner - January 10, 2011 8:53 PM


It is not unusual to request beneficiaries to sign these receipts before getting the funds. The options are: (1) set the matter for a hearing, give everyone notice of the hearing; (2) pay out the money and hope that everyone signs off; or (3) send out the receipts and pay out once they get returned. When people are waiting for money, they are more compliant. When they have what they want ($$) they may not be as cooperative. As long as there is an attorney involved, I wouldn't be too worried. However, if you have any concerns/questions, you should get legal counsel.

One option is to confirm that the attorney has the funds and can pay as soon as they receive your receipt.

Matt Gardner - January 10, 2011 9:39 PM


Whether you need to go through probate depends on the amount of the assets and the type of assets. If the total assets are less than $25k, it may be possible to avoid probate and distribute assets by affidavit. However, the intentions of your brother-in-law are irrelevant unless he placed those desires down in a will. Without a will, there are statutes which dictate who, what and when the assets are distributed.

Ted - February 18, 2011 8:43 PM

My uncle's health is failing and he's asked me to be executor of his estate (provided by his will). After he passes, he's asked that I make a distribution from the estate of a certain amount (under $10K) to a life long personal friend. This person is not otherwise provided for in the will and he wishes this transaction to be completely confidential. Can this be done? He does not want to make a gift to his friend will still alive because he feels the gift wouldn't be accepted.

I have no experience in this area and don't want to breach my duty to the estate or have my integrity potentially called into question. But this is his wish. If this is not possible to do confidentially, could he make a change to the beneficiaries of his life insurance while he's still alive? Would this remain confidential?

Matt Gardner - February 20, 2011 10:38 AM


Your concerns are correct that you would not be able to make an undocumented gift from your uncle's estate to this person. Naming this individual as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy is one route. Another option is titling a bank or stock account as POD or TOD. (Payable on death or Transfer on Death) which does the same thing as a beneficiary designation.

Assuming that you will need to go through the probate process, any of these forms for post-mortem transfers would not be confidential however. Any assets that your uncle owns at death are reported on the Report and Inventory in the probate process. Whoever wants to look at the Report and Inventory would be able to see who and how much was received by this person.

Lisa - February 27, 2011 8:55 AM

My husband passed away recently, prior to retirement age, he did not have a will. Our children are adults, so there is no social security involved at this time. All of our property/debt, with the exception of two credit cards, is jointly financed and owned. I have notified the two credit cards and received instructions regarding closing them, providing copies of death certificate, etc. I owned two policies on his life, and he had one small policy through his employer. All have been notified and have provided documentation necessary to begin the claims. Since our assets are jointly owned, is it necessary for me to hire a probate attorney?

Diane - March 1, 2011 12:47 AM

Matt -
Our father passed away suddenly a couple months ago. The lawyer has a signed will dated in '89. The lawyer printed out a copy of a will that was done in '99 but they are unable to find a signed copy of that will and are not sure it was signed. Does this unsigned will negate the signed will? Does it make us have a intestate vs. a testate? The lawyer began the probate process as an estate with no will. We simply want to proceed with our father's wishes from his last will that he did in '99 but can't find a signed copy. The will stated to have the estate divided in 1/3 between my sister and I and our step-mother. We all care very much about one another and want to proceed this way but we don't understand why we have to file based upon Iowa code with an intestate will? We were told that we would have to redistribute the assets once the estate was settled. I would think this could cause tax burdens for my sister and I if it is gifted to us once the estate is settled. Could we request from the court to proceed with the will from '99 even if it isn't signed? We all live in Iowa. Looking forward to hear your advice-thank you for your time.

Matt Gardner - March 1, 2011 10:35 PM

Lisa - I'm sorry about your loss. While your post does not list all of your asset and debt information, it is likely not necessary to hire a probate attorney at this time as there is like no reason to go through probate. Jointly owned assets will pass automatically to you, but you should confirm and make those necessary changes with the various accounts, plus title to any real property.

You should, however, contact an attorney to put your affairs in order for the sake of your kids.

Matt Gardner - March 1, 2011 10:47 PM


It is possible to probate a copy of a signed will, but I think you are would not have much success for probating the 1999 unsigned copy. It fails to meet the legal requirements of a will. Sidenote: Why isn't the 1989 signed will being probated, as opposed to intestate (no will)?

Another option could be a family settlement agreement where all of the parties consent to a different distribution than that provided under the intestate chapter. The Iowa Code permits this option.

As far as the gifting option, currently there is a transfer tax exemption amount of $5 million. Assuming that the post-administration gifts were not substantial, significant amounts of gifts could be made without any tax liability. Also, the gift tax is primarily the responsibility of the giftor.

Diane - March 3, 2011 12:33 AM

Matt -

Thank you for your response. You had asked a sidenote as to why the 1989 signed will was not being probated. That was part of my question as well. We were told that since a will from 1999 was "drafted" it made the 1989 will null & void even though we can't find a signed copy of the 1999 will.

Our father and step-mother married in 1991. Is this why the 1989 signed will can't be probated? She is mentioned in the 1989 will but it didn't give the equal dividing of the estate between the three of us as the unsigned 1999 will does.

Can we file the 1989 will but then do the family settlement agreement for a different distribution? Does the Iowa Code allow for that with a testate? Or is it only with an intestate? Where in the Iowa Code does it permit this option?

All three of us are confused as to why it was being probated as a no will ourselves. We just want to complete our dad's/husband wishes with it being the least amount of stress and burden on anyone person.

Pat - March 6, 2011 3:35 PM

I have power of attorney for my 87 year old mother. She ownes a farm in Iowa, but is presently living in Illinois where I reside so that we can help care for her. I have 3 other sibblings. At the time of our father's death 22 years ago he left half of the farm to the four children, with my mother having the income off that half while she was living. My mother owns the other half and also uses the income off that half to live. Her will leaves her half of the farm to the four of us. I'm executor and have my name on mother's bank account for bill paying. Mother has no outstanding debts, the farm is owned free and clear,and all four of us have no disputes about wills etc. We would all four like to keep the family farm upon mom's passing and continue to split the cost of maintaining it and in the yearly profit after bills. Is there any reason to have it probated?

Matthew Gardner - March 6, 2011 8:59 PM


Remember that your POA authority will cease when your mother passes away. Without probate, there would be some title issues to the property that may present some obstacles. For example, you may have trouble selling it, mortgaging it, or getting government ag payments. Also, you may have difficulty getting insurance. Also consider different scenarios/issues with co-ownership: liens against any of your siblings become liens against this property; death of a sibling inserts their spouse/children/heirs in their place; "veto ability" by one sibling; bankruptcy/divorce complications.

Some items to think about: revocable trust (to avoid probate) and/or limited liability company (for better control of the farm operation/decisions).

Mike - March 6, 2011 10:45 PM

My aunt died in April 2010 in Cresco Ia. The following month, the executor of the estate informed me that I was the beneficiary of her estate. I have tried to contact the executor in writing and by phone but cannot get a response. How can I find out where the probate process stands? Should it take this long and what approx. is its value?


On average, a year for probate and often the beneficiary may not be contacted until closer to the end. You can go online at www.iowacourtsonline.org and check online court records. Or you can call the clerk's office for information what has been filed.

Matt Gardner

Kay - March 23, 2011 8:00 PM

My mother passed away in December 2010. I was appointed executor of her will. Because I live outside of Iowa my older is co-executor as recommended by our attorney. My mother moved to a nursing home about 10 months before her death. My younger sister rented a truck and moved all my mother's personal property to her home and into a rented store room. Last summer my two sisters and I went to her home to look through Mom's things and maybe try to decide how we would divide her possesions. Mom's will states everything goes equally to the four daughters. Since Mom's death my sister has moved everything from the storeroom into her house. I would like to move all of my mother's possessions out of my sisters house to a neutral location and account for all assets.


You should try to work this out with your sister. If not, you'll have to go to court and get the court involved. Typically, courts don't like to get involved in these type of arguments. You should be able to explain why it isn't appropriate for those items to be stored at that location, and you should have an inventory taken. (Videotaping is good.) Good luck.

Matt Gardner

Roger - March 24, 2011 2:16 PM

A close friend recently lost her husband and he left no will.He left a IPERS account after 36 years with the state of Iowa with her as the single benificary.He has 2 grown children from a previous marrage and a dependant child that was theirs.Does this IPERS account have to be included in the probate?Can you give me the section of the Iowa code that covers this.Thanks


While it is listed in the probate process, it is not subject to the probate proceedings. Iowa Code 633.361 covers the Report and Inventory, which basically says "include everything" that the decedent owned at death. The IPERS account was owned at death, thus included on inventory.

Jeff aldridge - April 16, 2011 7:38 PM

My dad passed away april 9th of 2011 i was not informed until the 16th. How do i find out if he has a will, considering there are family airlooms that i would like to pass on to my kids, he was remarried and i am his only child. Do i have any rights

Kim - April 17, 2011 1:12 PM

When I was a child growing up in Iowa in the 60's I had a Widowed neighbor lady with no children who took a shine to myself, my sister and a neighbor girl, the 3 of us were childhood play mates. She always told us that we were her adopted kids and was going to leave us everything. She passed on in January 2010. I am now residing in Florida. I read via the computer in the local paper in Iowa that the probate had begun in the first part of March with my childhood friend being the executor. I guess what my question is, How long does the executor in Iowa have to notify the heirs? I don't want to call her for fear of seeming greedy and if the time period has passed in which I should have been notified then I'll just forget about the whole thing. I do not know the name of the Attorney who did the will. Is there any way to find anything out without seeming rude.

Matt Gardner - April 18, 2011 5:11 PM


You can always contact the clerk of court's office for a copy of the will. Sometimes it may be several months before beneficiaries are contacted. It just depends and attorneys have different practices. You can also go online at www.iowacourtsonline.org to see what documents have been filed.

You should contact an attorney if you have any further specific requests.

Matt Gardner - April 18, 2011 5:15 PM


If you go to www.iowacourtsonline.org, you can see if an Iowa probate estate has been opened or anything filed. Whether you have any rights depends on whether there is a will. If no will = you have rights as an heir of your father, subject to some rights of his surviving spouse. If yes there is a will = you have rights if you are named beneficiary. If not, you could contest will if there are any grounds to contest. Otherwise, you don't have a claim by simply being a son. You should contact an attorney if you have any further specific requests.

Monica - April 25, 2011 9:21 PM

I was named executor in a will dated 2002 under which Mr. A left all his estate to Mrs. A. A Miller Trust was established for the decedent in 2006 because Mr. A needed 24-hour nursing home care. At that time, all assets were transferred to his spouse. When Mr. A. died in 2009, all that remained in his name was a small amount in a checking account; the amount of the debt/lien of DHS for Mr. A's nursing home care was waived in writing by DHS until the surviving spouse dies. I am trying to get the funds from the checking account transferred to Mrs. A and have a small estate affidavit prepared. However, the Iowa bar form provides 2 choices - the decedent died intestate (not the case) or the will has been admitted to probate or otherwise filed in the clerk's office. What is the purpose of the filing requirement in a circumstance like this where all probate is not required and there is no debt except that which is waived until the surviving spouse's death?

Matthew Gardner - May 2, 2011 9:20 PM


There is a requirement that a will be filed in order that if someone wants/needs to probate it, it can be located and administered. Otherwise, you could have people who refuse to surrender it for improper reasons. You can simply file the will and that is it. Nothing more than that.

PK Rup - September 1, 2011 3:29 PM

My uncle passed away recently in Iowa. He was a long time resident of Florida and has a house there. He recently (2 years ago) built a house in Iowa and had been residing there about 4 months of the year. His primary residence was in Florida where he votes and where he executed his will.

I just met with a lawyer in Iowa who told me that since he resided (part time) in Iowa, and died in Iowa, his estate must go through Iowa probate. By the way, although there are two homes involved, we anticipate that the estate will not be valued more than $100,000.

Thanks! Patsy

Matt Gardner - September 2, 2011 8:08 AM

PK Rup-

It sounds like you will need to go through probate in Iowa (& potentially Florida, although I'm not licensed in Florida). You won't need to go through probate in Iowa because he died here, but primarily because he has property here in Iowa (the house he built). The probate process allows you to transfer title to that Iowa house.

There is "domiciliary" probate and "ancillary" probate. The state of your residence is "domiciliary" and if you own property in another state, you go through "ancillary" probate. It may not make much of a difference which state is treated as his state of residence as it sounds like a claim could be made that either state was his state of residence.

Good luck with the process and please let us know if we can be of assistance or if you would like to compare fees.

June - March 1, 2012 8:39 AM

If I am named in a will, is it possible for me to get a copy of that will, to see what the assets are?
What is the time limit that an estate has to be distributed to the beneficiaries? My aunt died in October of 2010. Shouldn't the assets have been distributed by now? Does the money go to an interest collecting account while it is waiting to be distributed? Who gets the interest accummulated? Is it just sitting in the attorney's trust account? I am out of state so I can't go to check on anything.

Koleen Kanealy - March 6, 2012 7:07 AM

My father-in-law passed away this February. The will leaves everything to his wife. Everything they owned was in both names EXCEPT for their real estate. They owe nothing, have nothing and all three children would agree to sign over the property to their mother should that become an issue, so is a probate actually necessary?

koleen - March 8, 2012 8:25 AM

My Father-in-law recently passed away leaving behind a spouse and 3 sons. The will leaves everything to his spouse. All assets were in both his and his wife's name EXECEPT for the real estate. They own very little and have no outstanding debts. All 3 sons are willing to sign anything giving their mother the real estate. By Iowa law to transfer the deed into the spouse's name do they have to file a probate? IS there anyway to avoid probate or is it just a given? Help. Thank you! Koleen

Matthew Gardner - March 11, 2012 8:03 PM


They could wait 5 years and transfer title then, but that approach prevents her from selling or borrowing against the real estate until then. Thus, if the surviving spouse wants to do anything with the property before then, probate is necessary to get title in her name, unfortunately. Recommend going through probate in order to give her that flexibility to deal with the house for the next 5 years.

Matthew Gardner - March 11, 2012 8:16 PM


You can log onto Iowa Courts Online at https://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us/ESAWebApp//SelectFrame to see some information on the status. You should contact the attorney and request a copy of the will, plus the Report and Inventory (that is a document filed with the court that lists all of the assets and values). Some estates can take longer to complete due to complications with assets, beneficiaries, or other involved parties. Sometimes the attorney can be slow. The time limit (if I recall correctly) is 3 years, but most don't take that long to complete. The funds should be invested somehow, depending on the amounts, and credited to the beneficiaries. Sometimes they will go to the attorney's trust account for final distribution. Feel free to get an Iowa attorney to clearly answer your questions and protect your interests if you are concerned and get stonewalled.

mike b scanlon - April 11, 2012 10:17 AM

what is the deadline for filing probate inventory in Iowa?

Matt Gardner - April 12, 2012 9:11 AM


The probate inventory is due 90 days after appointment of the executor. However, that is frequently not met. The court will send out delinquency notices 2x per year that typically prompts getting those filed.

Dave - April 13, 2012 6:42 PM

Iowa- My father passed away with a WILL directing all property and assets to an Irrevokable Trust upon his death. Executors and Trustee's named. $0 balance on credit cards, no known loans outstanding, all insurance policies, investments if outside the Trust have stated benificiaries. The Trust allows for all funeral expense, taxes etc to be paid out of the Trust of which there will be sufficient funds to do so, the remaining to be split between his heirs. Do we have to go through Probate? I am sssuming we still need to issue legal notice (newspaper) to creditors. With the Trust in effect, no known debt, are we still subject to probate?

Matt Gardner - April 16, 2012 11:28 AM


Good question. Key question to look at is how the assets were titled. Check out my other posting on this issue at http://www.iowaestateplan.com/2008/04/making-revocable-trust-work-right.html

Merrill - September 20, 2012 12:37 PM

My mother passed away in august 2012 she owned a farm that was crop share. my question is about the growing crops on the farm. does this go through probate, price and yield unknown as it has not been harvested.I am her son and I inherited the farm in the will and I planted the crops being a farmer.thanks for any help

Matt Gardner - September 26, 2012 3:24 PM


I'm sorry to hear about your mother's passing. The growing crops are considered an asset of the estate and the value is based upon a formula considering the date of death and the growing season, generally. There are some exceptions and legal counsel can provide some advice on those particulars.

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