Nobody likes thinking about their own mortality, but it is human nature to do so, and also human nature to worry about the future. If you have ever wondered and worried what happens to your belongings when you die, the good news is that this is something wholly within your control. If you make a will, then the answer is whoever you choose. If you do not make a will, then your possessions will be divided among your closest family members by the state of Iowa.
Dying Without a Will
In Iowa, dying without a will is called dying intestate. If you die under these circumstances, the state of Iowa has intestacy laws in place to divide your belongings. If you leave only a surviving spouse, then the law provides that your spouse will get the value of all legal or equitable estates in real property that has not been sold or otherwise disposed of, and all personal property that was in the hands of the decedent at the time of death. The surviving spouse will also get any personal property that is not required to pay off any debts or charges.
What if there are Children Involved?
If you leave behind only a spouse, then you can see Iowa law gives him or her the bulk of your estate. But things become more complicated when additional family members are left behind. One situation that the law provides for is if you leave a spouse and children that are yours, but not your spouse’s. In that situation, your spouse receives half of the value of all real property and personal property not necessary for the payment of debts, and all of the personal property remaining at the time of death. If the value of the personal and real property does not equal at least $50,000, then more will be added to the surviving spouse’s share from any remaining homestead interest or real and personal property. Whatever remains passes to your children. If there is no surviving spouse, than your entire estate will pass to your children.
What if there is no Surviving Spouse or Children?
Many people die and do not leave a spouse or children. This appears to be the case with the recent passing of the entertainer Prince. In such situations, Iowa law will give your estate to your parents in equal shares. If either parent is deceased, their share goes to the surviving parent. If there are no parents, spouse, or children, then the estate will be divided in half. One half will be distributed to the other children of your mother, and the other half will go to the other children of your father. This could be the same people, and could be your brothers and sisters, but could also include children not from the same relationship. If there are no surviving children of one deceased parent, then the entire estate passes to the surviving children of the other parent.
Sometimes there is nobody. No surviving spouse, child, parent, or siblings. If there are any grandparents remaining, then the estate will pass to them (half to the paternal grandparents and half to the maternal grandparents). If no surviving grandparents, the estate will pass to any great-grandparents. If there are no surviving family members at all, but here is a deceased spouse of the person who died intestate, then the deceases spouse will inherit any un-inherited portion of the estate, whose heirs will divide it. If there is absolutely nobody who fits any of these familial relationships and you die intestate, then your property will go to the state of Iowa.
You don’t want your hard-earned estate going to the state of Iowa when you die, and we don’t either. The way to avoid this is by leaving a will, thereby ensuring your estate is distributed to the people of your choosing when you pass. If you would like to discuss drafting a will, or any other estate planning issue, contact one of our experienced estate planning attorneys for a consultation.