This is a great question, and one that we hear often. And to answer it, we need to look at what happens if you DON'T have a will in Iowa when you pass away.
This is called intestacy. Under Iowa's intestacy statutes (Iowa Code §§ 633.211-633.226) when you die without a will your property will pass according to the law -- regardless of your wishes. The law provides that if you are married at the time of your death and have no children, or if the only children you have are with your surviving spouse, your surviving spouse receives 100% of your estate. This changes if you have children from a prior relationship. If you are unmarried and have children, your entire estate will go to those surviving children equally. There is a long complicated list of relatives that your property goes to if you do not have a spouse or children, and if none of those relatives survive you then your property goes to the State of Iowa.
So, why would you want a will when you're already married? There are a number of reasons.
- You select the executor or personal representative in your will, not the Court.
- You determine how you want your property to be distributed. This is especially beneficial if your wishes do not exactly match what the Iowa Code provides in the event that you die intestate. However, there are provisions that protect your surviving spouse from being disinherited entirely.
- What happens if you and your spouse die at the same time? Who will take care of your minor children? Who will be the trustee to manage their funds? A great benefit of a will is the ability to name those potential guardians and trustees. You are best equipped to determine the best person or people to provide care for your children if you pass away.
- What happens if you have children from a previous marriage that are not the children of your current spouse? Under the intestacy statutes, your surviving spouse would receive $50,000 plus one-half of your remaining estate. The other half of your remaining estate would then be divided equally among your heirs.
There are a lot of great resources out there to help you explore estate planning, but nothing beats sitting down with an attorney and discussing your options. Ask us today how we can assist you in planning for your family's future and protecting your nest!