For the sake of loved ones, every adult should have an up-to-date will, and they should ensure that someone knows where to find it. When we assist a family with probate administration, we find it heartbreaking to watch grieving family members desperately searching through every paper they can find to try to see if there’s a will. The lack of a will leaves them filled with uncertainty.
At Huizenga Law, we can prepare a will or update your existing will to provide guidance and protection for those you leave behind.
What a Will Can Do
In your will, you can leave instructions covering a variety of matters. You can:
- Name the person you want to serve as your personal representative to manage affairs
- Specify who you want to receive your property after debts are paid
- Name a guardian for minor children
- Establish a testamentary trust to hold property for minors
You can also describe how you would want bills paid and provide for care of a pet. However, while they provide guidance for loved ones, some of your instructions may not carry the force of law the way other provisions do.
How the Law Handles Your Estate if You Don’t Have a Will
When someone dies without a will or if the will is considered invalid by the court, then the Iowa laws of intestate succession determine how your estate will be handled. Your “estate” refers to the property you own at the time of death, so virtually everyone leaves an estate behind.
Some property does not become part of your estate because it passes directly to others, such as when you have a beneficiary clause on an account. If you placed property in a trust or you co-owned property with another person and ownership involves a right of survivorship, that property also does not become part of your estate.
When you die without a will, the court will name an administrator to serve as personal representative of your estate. It is possible that the laws the court must rely on will lead the judge to choose someone who is not suitable for the role, and then other family members may need to contest the matter in court. You can avoid that problem by naming a representative in your will.
If you don’t have a will, the distribution of your property is also determined according to legal formulas that may not work in your family’s best interests. When you specify distribution in your will instead, you can avoid confusion and the potential for conflict.
Using a Pour-Over Will
We frequently prepare revocable “living” trusts for people who want their property to pass directly to loved ones without the long expensive probate process. However, even if you have this type of trust, you still need a will as a back up provision to cover property that may get left out of the trust.
In this situation, we create a simple pour-over will that specifies that any property in the estate will become part of the trust. Then it will be distributed to beneficiaries you’ve named and won’t be subject to the laws of intestate succession.
Let the Team at Huizenga Law Prepare a Will to Protect Your Loved Ones
If you never created a will or if your will was prepared years ago, we invite you to contact us so we can review your situation and prepare a will that meets your family’s needs. At Huizenga Law, we know how important it is to protect your time and your resources, so we won’t try to make the process more complicated than it needs to be.
We will work to ensure that when you pass, your affairs can be managed as easily as possible. Contact us today to learn more about the ways we can assist.