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What is intestacy, and why should you avoid it?

If you pass away without creating a valid will or other statement indicating what should be done with your Iowa property, your estate is consider intestate. Intestacy is not a way to avoid probate; it simply means that your wishes will have no influence on the distribution of your estate. Furthermore, it creates confusion and frustration for your grieving friends and family. Here are a few good reasons to avoid leaving your property intestate.

As the Iowa State Bar Association notes, if you die without a will, the court appoints an administrator to manage the estate and oversee its distribution. Improper estate planning can have serious tax consequences. Furthermore, if you do not have any living relatives, the state becomes the beneficiary of your property, which may not be a particularly desirable circumstance.

If you do have living relatives, they will not be left out in the cold if you pass away without drawing up a will. However, your estate—or rather the remainder after debts, medical expenses, funeral and burial fees, unpaid taxes, legal costs and other financial obligations are paid off—will be disseminated according to state guidelines and not in line with your personal preferences.

If you have a surviving spouse but no surviving children, your spouse will inherit the entirety of your estate. The same holds true if you and your surviving spouse are the parents of all of your surviving children. Conversely, if you have surviving children but no surviving spouse, your children will be the sole heirs of your estate.

In circumstances where you either have children from a previous marriage or have neither children nor surviving spouse but do have surviving family members, the arithmetic of property division becomes more complicated. In short, however, leaving your estate intestate means you have no say in who receives a share.

Drafting a valid will is the best way to ensure that you can designate funds to support the causes, organizations and charities dear to your heart; leave behind something for your friends; and, if necessary, exclude persons from inheriting your property. Creating a will also delivers another crucial benefit: the ability to select someone you trust to oversee your estate after your passing.

This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended as legal advice.

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