Probate Shortcuts in Iowa

Save time and money when you wrap up an estate in Iowa.

Updated by , Attorney

Iowa offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." These procedures make it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all -- by using an affidavit. And that saves time, money, and hassle.

Here are the ways you can skip or speed up probate. (If the affidavit procedure is used, there's no need to use the simplified probate procedure.)

Claiming Property With a Simple (Small Estate) Affidavit

Iowa has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset.

The out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in Iowa if there is no real estate (or real estate passes to spouse as joint tenant) and the gross value of the deceased person's personal property is $50,000 or less. The affidavit must state that the following amounts were paid or will be paid from the assets received by the affidavit, if they apply:

  • Debt owed to the Iowa Department of Human Services for benefits the deceased person received
  • Taxes due to the Iowa Department of Revenues
  • Debts to known creditors

There is a 40-day waiting period. Iowa Code § 633.356.

Simplified Probate Procedures

Iowa has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an executor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.

You can use the simplified small estate process in Iowa if the gross value of property subject to probate does not exceed $100,000. Iowa Code § 635.1. The request must state the following information:

  • The deceased person's name, address and date of death
  • The name and address of the surviving spouse, if any
  • The name and relationship of each inheritor
  • Whether there was a will and the date the will was signed if there was one
  • The name and address of the personal representative
  • That the gross value of the estate is $100,000 or less

Iowa Code § 635.2.

For More Information

For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

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