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Probate—Estates and Wills

What is a will?

A will is a document that allows any person of sound mind who is 18 or over (16 if married) to dispose of property at their death that is not distributed by other means.

How do I make a will?

Making a valid will can be complicated and involve many considerations depending on your circumstances. A will must be in writing, signed by the person making the will and witnessed by two people. You should visit with an attorney to find out whether you need a will and what it might include.

What happens if I die without a will?

If you die without a will, Iowa law determines how your eligible assets may be distributed, including to pay off certain debts or to be split among your children or relatives. Whether or not you need a will can be complicated, and you should talk to an attorney if you are not sure.

How do I find a will?

Some clerk of court offices store wills. Contact the clerk of court office in the county where you believe the will may be stored. If the clerk of court office in your county does not have the will, you should contact the attorney who may have been involved in drafting the will. You can also check safe deposit boxes or other secure places where a will could be stored for safekeeping, ask persons who may be executor of the will, or contact relatives who may have a copy of the will.

Can I pick up a deceased relative’s will that is stored at the clerk of court office?

You should contact the clerk of court office to find out how you might get the will.

How do I file a claim against an estate?

Iowa Code sections 633.410 through 633.449 regulate the filing of claims in probate cases. There is no official court form for filing a claim against a will or an estate. Your local clerk of court office may have such a form. Claims in probate may involve very complicated legal questions. You should visit with an attorney.

Do I have to open an estate or probate matter when a relative dies?

Opening an estate is not required for every deceased person, but it may be necessary to transfer property, pay debts, and obtain tax clearances. Estate and probate matters can be complicated. You should talk to an attorney.

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