If you do not understand the information below, contact Hope or another attorney licensed in Iowa.

1. Complete a payable on death (POD) certificate with your bank for bank accounts, CDs, and money market accounts

  • Joint accounts: the account with transfer by law to the surviving joint account holder; a POD designation provides a direct transfer and bypasses probate if both account holders are deceased.

  • Single accounts: the account will transfer to your estate by probate; a POD designation provides a direct transfer and bypasses probate.

  • If you want the POD designation to go equally to your children, you have to list each child.

2. Update life insurance beneficiaries

  • Review your named beneficiaries.

  • Naming an alternate beneficiary provides a direct transfer and bypasses probate if the first beneficiary is deceased.

  • If you named an alternate beneficiary before you had children, you need to update your account if you want the benefits to pass to your children in the event that your spouse predeceases you.

  • If you have minor children who are the alternate beneficiaries and your will has a testamentary trust, update your account to name the testamentary trust as the alternate beneficiary.

3. Complete a transfer on death (TOD) certificate for your stocks

  • A TOD designation provides a direct transfer and bypasses probate because cashing out or transferring stocks has to go through probate.

4. Cash in your mature bonds

  • Bonds are subject to probate in Iowa.

5. Update investment account beneficiaries

  • examples: 401(k), IRAs, annuities, IPERS and pensions

  • Apply the instructions from #2 above

What is probate?  

  • In Iowa, probate is a court-supervised procedure of accounting for the debts and assets of the deceased person and to transfer remaining assets to beneficiaries under a will or to heirs under intestate (no will) law.

  • The court costs of probate are calculated based on the gross value of the estate.

  • There are legal requirements that must be followed to complete the probate process; on average 15-20 steps need to be completed regardless of the size of the estate.

  • The probate process does not lend well as a do-it-yourself program and it is rare that an administrator (no will) or an executor (will) completes probate without an attorney.

  • There are tax filings and notice to creditors that must be completed specifically according to Iowa probate laws.

  • A will does not avoid probate if there the total assets subject to probate add up to more than $50,000.00.

  • For example, if you give your child your house in your will and you are the only person named on the deed (no life estate to your child), then probate must be completed to transfer the house to your named beneficiary. There is a way to title your home so the transfer happens by law and doesn't require probate; I recommend using a lawyer to assist with the process.

What is a beneficiary?

  • A beneficiary is a person named in a legal document (will or contract) to receive the transfer of your assets on your death.

What is an heir?

  • An heir is a descendant as defined under law and is used when no beneficiary is named.

  • Distributions to heirs is controlled by Iowa law (Iowa Code 633.219).