What You Need To Know About Creating A Will In Iowa

A will is one of the most important documents because it allows you to specify who will receive your assets when you die. If you die without a will or other end-of-life plan, you are said to have died intestate, which means you died without a will or any different end-of-life plan. The intestacy law in Iowa distributes your property among your closest relatives, starting with your spouse and children. If you do not have a spouse or children, your property will be passed down to your grandchildren or parents. If you have no surviving relatives, the state will seize your assets.

How To Make A Will In Iowa

In Iowa, to make your will:

  • It must be signed in front of two witnesses (at least 16 years old), who must also sign it
  • And you have to mention that the paper you are signing is your will

List all of your possessions

After your death, your estate is the collection of everything you possess, so you can begin creating your will by listing all your property and assets. You do not have to specify every single object in your possession; you can leave low-value goods as personal property in your will as the residuary estate.

You should still compile a list of specific goods, such as real estate, high-value possessions, and sentimental objects that you want to leave to a particular individual.

Choose your recipients

The most crucial component of your will is naming beneficiaries for your possessions. A beneficiary can be a family member or acquaintance, a company, or a charitable organization. You can call a single beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries for everything. You should also choose a contingent beneficiary in your will; this person receives an asset if your primary beneficiary is unable to inherit.

Select an executor

When you die, you need someone to carry out the terms of your will. This individual is in charge of managing your estate and dispersing the assets to the appropriate people. The executor has several responsibilities, which may take some time depending on the intricacy of your estate. Choose someone who you can rely on and who is up to the task.

Take care of your debts and taxes

You may wish to do some accounting as part of your preparation and consider your debts and when you might pay them off. You do not need to list your debts in your will; simply understand that any estate debts must be resolved or settled before assets can be distributed to your heirs. Debt can diminish the legacy you can leave to your loved ones; therefore, it's essential to consider this possibility.

Joint Will vs. Individual Will

A joint will is one will that two people. Usually, a married couple signs together and leaves their assets to each other. A joint will typically state that when one spouse dies, the survivor inherits everything, and when the second spouse dies, everything goes to the children. The most joint will also have a clause that says neither spouse can change or revoke the will on their own. This means the will can't be changed after the first spouse dies. A standard will always be changed. But a joint will is a legally binding contract that can't be changed or revoked after one spouse has passed if it has a contractual clause.

You might think that if you and your spouse own a lot together, you should have a joint will. But lawyers who help people plan their estates often suggest an individual will instead. The reason is that it can be a terrible thing to make it impossible for the surviving spouse to change the terms of the will. The survivor, who may live for years or decades after the first spouse dies, can't respond to changes in life, which can hurt the family. For example, the survivor might not be able to limit the money that will go to a child who isn't good with money.

Revoking Or Changing Your Will

In Iowa, you have the right to revoke or change your will at any time. You can withdraw your will by doing the following:

  • Canceling or destroying it to revoke it
  • Instructing another person to cancel or destroy it to revoke it
  • Making a new will that expressly states that the old one is revoked

Two witnesses must also witness your act of revocation.

If you and your spouse divorce, any assets your spouse or their relative was to inherit will be automatically revoked. Similarly, any provision naming your spouse or their relative as executor or trustee is automatically revoked unless your will expressly states otherwise.

If you need to change your will, you should revoke it and create a new one. If you only need to make minor changes, you can add an amendment to your existing will, known as a codicil. In either case, you must finalize your changes using the same formalities you used to create your original will.

Does A Will Need To Be Notarized in Iowa?

No, you do not need to notarize your will in Iowa to make it legal.

However, Iowa allows you to make your will "self-proving," which requires you to go to a notary. Because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it, a self-proving will expedites probate. To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit proving your identities and that you were all aware you were signing the will.

Do You Need An Attorney To Prepare A Will in Iowa

Although it is not legally required to have, an attorney write and help you execute a will, having an attorney on your side can help ensure that the will is valid and that your estate is distributed as you wish.

A lawyer will most likely be required to determine whether your needs are simple or complex. If your estate is required to pay state or federal taxes or say you have a substantial amount of money in tax-free retirement plans, having an attorney will make things less complicated. If you do not hire a lawyer, your estate administration may take longer, cost more money, and cause problems for your heirs.

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