It is a great idea to hire a probate lawyer before you actually “need” his or her services so things can go as smoothly as possible when it comes to taking an estate through the probate process. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works. Oftentimes, a person isn’t even aware of what a probate lawyer in Northwest Iowa does until he or she is in need of one. It’s very common to go looking for a probate lawyer in Northwest Iowa once a loved one has passed and help is needed immediately.

The Northwest Iowa Probate Process

The Northwest Iowa probate lawyer’s job is to offer assistance as an estate passes through the court system in order for it to be distributed properly. There are several steps that the court must go through to close an estate, and the attorney’s job is to make sure everything is initiated and followed through on as these steps are being followed. A few of the major tasks in probate are:

  • Validating the will;
  • Creating an inventory of assets;
  • Getting appropriate appraisals for assets;
  • Creating a list of debts;
  • Paying debts; and
  • Dispersing the remaining property according to the will.

If there is no will, the estate is said to be “intestate,” and the state will have even more say in what becomes of the decedent’s property.

When You Need a Probate Lawyer in Northwest Iowa

Not every estate needs a probate lawyer. Some Northwest Iowa families have placed their assets into trusts that actually don’t go through the probate process, for example. (If this is the case, you should still speak with a lawyer to find out if you will need to start a trust administration) Additionally, some wills are very simple and easy to execute, say as in a case where there are little to no debts and common property is left to a surviving spouse alone.

In most other cases, however, hiring a probate lawyer in Northwest Iowa will simplify the process for all involved and will most likely save the estate a fair amount of money. That is because the attorney will be able to implement strategies to help lower the amount of taxes that need to be paid.

He or she can also become an objective outside party who can act as the executor of the will in situations where family tensions run high. Along those same lines, if someone with a legal financial interest in the estate wants to contest the will, it makes sense to have a probate attorney working to make sure the decedent’s wishes are carried out to the best of the court’s ability.

Finally, it can be a good idea to get a Northwest Iowa probate lawyer involved in cases where an individual has a terminal illness. The attorney can help to get affairs in order by drawing up a will and understanding first-hand what it is that the person wants for the estate.

What the Probate Lawyer Will Do

There are many, many tasks that the probate lawyer will perform on behalf of the estate.

  • Filing documents with the court;
  • Creating lists of assets;
  • Place legal notices in newspapers;
  • Contact creditors; and
  • Make sure taxes are paid on the estate.

An Iowa probate lawyer must keep current on relevant laws as they change and will work to help clients and heirs follow all of the right procedures while doing their best to protect their interests.