Probate

As a premier estate planning and elder law firm in Iowa, we make it our goal to help you plan for everything you own and everyone you love. Reach out to us today to get the planning process started.

West Des Moines Probate Attorneys

Guiding You Through Iowa’s Probate Process

When a loved one passes away, their estate may need to be settled with the state. This court supervised process is known as probate, and it generally involves communicating with heirs and beneficiaries, settling outstanding debts, and distributing the decedent’s assets. While this may sound relatively straightforward, probate is notorious for protracted delays, disputes, and bureaucracy. It can represent a tremendous burden to anyone named executor or administrator to an estate.

Our West Des Moines probate lawyers at Pearson Bollman Law can guide you through the process and settle your loved one’s estate efficiently and accurately. We understand that the last thing anyone wants to do in the wake of a loved one’s passing is to deal with excessive paperwork and complex asset management, and our team can help relieve you of much of the stress and work involved. Our firm has helped countless clients navigate the Iowa probate system and is prepared to help you accomplish this difficult but necessary task in a timely manner.

If you have been named executor or administrator to an estate and have questions about the probate process, do not hesitate to call (515) 298-8850 or contact us online.

The Role of the Executor and Administrator in Iowa Probate

Both an executor and an administrator are responsible for the management and settling of an estate once someone has passed. They can both be referred to as a “personal representative” of the estate. Both an Executor and an Administrator are responsible for ensuring completion of the probate process and have a legal responsibility to carry out each of the necessary steps.

An estate will only have an executor or an administrator depending on whether or not the decedent died with a last will and testament or without a last will and testament. If the decedent left a last will and testament, they will likely have named an executor of their choosing, often a family member, friend, or legal representative. If the decedent left behind no will or the chosen executor is unavailable, the local probate court will instead appoint an administrator, which serves effectively the same functions.

Being chosen as an executor or administrator can be overwhelming, especially if you are not familiar with probate or what your duties will entail. Though you will almost always be compensated for your role, you may require legal assistance to aid in the efficient settling of the decedent’s estate.

How Probate Works in Iowa

No two probate processes are quite alike. Each probate will vary substantially by the size, complexity, and elements of an individual estate. Still, there are numerous universal steps that practically every personal representative will need to follow.

Our West Des Moines probate attorneys can guide you through each of the following probate steps:

  • Identification of the last will and testament. Hopefully, the deceased has engaged in some form of estate planning, including the writing and formalization of a will. This document will serve as guide for the eventual distribution of assets, and it will also name a proposed executor to manage the estate’s probate.
  • Filing a petition with the appropriate Iowa probate court. To initiate probate, a petition must be filed with the local court in which the deceased lived at the time of their passing. If a will has been located, the named executor typically engages. Otherwise, an immediate family member can safely petition the court.
  • Petitioning to appoint a personal representative to the estate. Once the petition to initiate probate has been received and reviewed, the court will promptly move to appoint an executor or personal representative. It is at this point that the last will and testament will have to be formally validated and recognized in order to accept the chosen executor. This is where many estate disputes begin, as family members or other interested parties may claim that a will is invalid for reasons of undue influence or because the testator was not of sound mind at the time of its writing. Probate cannot proceed until these conflicts are resolved and a will is validated or thrown out. Should the court need to appoint a personal representative in lieu of an executor, they will typically choose a close family member willing to accept the position.
  • Notifying creditors. The personal representative is responsible for investigating any creditors to which the decedent still owes a debt or some other obligation. These creditors must be informed of the decedent’s passing and be provided instructions on how to seek payment as the probate process continues.
  • Notifying beneficiaries. If a will was accepted, the personal representative can review its contents and identify each of the beneficiaries that stands to receive assets. These beneficiaries must be contacted and informed of both the decedent’s passing as well as their status as an heir. Should no will exist or if a will was thrown out without replacement, the state’s intestacy laws apply. This means that beneficiaries to the decedent’s property will consist of their surviving immediate family members. In these cases, all family members that stand to inherit assets should be contacted.
  • Inventorying and appraisal of estate assets. The property discussed in the will may not encapsulate all of the elements of the deceased’s estate. Whether a will is involved or not, the personal representative is required to conduct a thorough inventory of the decedent’s known assets. For many types of property, including real estate, appraisals will be necessary to determine value.
  • Settling of decedent debts. An estate is still responsible for the payment of debts and obligations after someone passes away. The personal representative must address all creditors that come forward with valid claims. Ideally, the deceased will have anticipated some or all of these debts and set aside funds to pay them. Otherwise, the personal representative may be forced to liquidate estate assets to settle debts, even if the property is named in the will. Should there be insufficient means of paying all debts, the court may issue prioritize the payment of certain debts. Many choose to avoid the possibility of their property being sold to pay old debts by placing assets in trusts, which generally bypass the probate process.
  • Filing of tax returns and payment of estate taxes. The personal representative is responsible for filing the final personal tax returns for the decedent. If their estate is sufficiently large, they may also need to pay any mandated estate taxes. Assets placed in trusts do not count toward an estate’s valuation for tax purposes.
  • Distribution of assets to beneficiaries. Once debts have been settled, the personal representative is authorized to distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries. If a will is in play, the representative will follow its instructions. If no will is available, intestacy laws must be followed instead.
  • Submitting the final report and settling the estate. After all assets have been distributed, the personal representative must prepare a “final report” that includes all actions and transactions they took throughout the process, including evidence that they notified creditors and heirs, paid debts, sold property, and gave items to the appropriate parties. Upon reviewing and approving this report, the court will formally “settle” the decedent’s estate, ending the personal representative’s duties.

Your Partner in Probate

Serving as a personal representative is a significant responsibility that can also be more than you are prepared to handle, especially if you are not familiar with the legal systems involved. Our West Des Moines probate lawyers at Pearson Bollman Law can work with you in your capacity as executor or administrator throughout the process. We are intimately familiar with the ins and outs of Iowa probate and can give you the legal support that you need.

Schedule a free initial consultation to learn more about how we can help you manage probate. Call (515) 298-8850 or contact us online today.

Dedicated to Helping You and Your Family

What Makes Us Different
  • Experience

    With decades of experience between our attorneys and staff in estate planning and elder law, we are a premier Iowa law firm that has the skills you need in your corner.

  • Accessibility

    With 5 offices located throughout the state of Iowa, you will always have access to our team when you have questions or concerns about your case.

  • Fixed Fees

    We not only provide free initial consultations for our planning services, but most matters have fixed fees so you understand exactly what you get and how much it costs from the very beginning.

  • Skill

    When it comes to estate planning, we have a well-defined process that is tried and true, working well for thousands of clients in the past.

Real Clients. Real Reviews.

What Our Clients Have to Say
    I Will Gladly Recommend You to Anyone

    “I don't think we could have gotten through the mound of paperwork without your guidance. I was highly impressed with the shortlist of items that DHS came back asking for. I appreciate the follow-through and responsiveness.”

    - Former Client
    I would recommend Pearson Bollman Law for estate planning.

    “I would recommend Pearson Bollman Law for estate planning. They had a free workshop that I attended. I came away from there realizing how much I didn't know!!!! I would recommend everyone to educate ...”

    - Mary J.K.
    We Look Forward to a Continuing Relationship

    “Add to that our appreciation of your personal qualities of compassion and wisdom.”

    - Mary and Tom
    I appreciate your frank, rigorous, yet flexible way of handling things.

    “You understood from the very beginning that we had a few special constraints and always managed to find ways to accommodate them — in the strict respect of legal procedure.”

    - Gail Fagen
    Joyce and I Would Highly Recommend Him

    “He handled our situation very promptly and to best meet our needs. His presentation and explanation to our family were exceptional.”

    - Bruce and Joyce
/

Begin Planning with Us Today

Schedule a Free Consultation
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.