A will is a legal document declaring the person’s wishes regarding the disposal of their property when they die. What happens to a person’s property when they die if they do not have a will? It depends on how the property was owned at the time of death and who the person’s legal beneficiaries are at the time of death. Basically, if property is owned jointly with another person with rights of survivorship, the survivor takes the decedent’s interest automatically. For example, if a husband and wife own their home jointly as husband and wife with rights of survivorship, when one of them dies the survivor then owns the home. This is true regardless of the terms of the person’s last will and testament.

If the person dies leaving property that is not owned jointly, and does not have a will, the property is distributed to the person’s lawful heirs according to Iowa’s laws. Basically, a spouse would inherent all of the former spouse’s property.
If a person is not married, then the property would go to their mother and father if living, and if not, then to their brothers and sisters in equal shares. If a person has a lawful will, their property will be distributed according to their directions in heir will.

There are exceptions to these general rules, but the old rumor that the State takes the property if there is no will is not true. The best way to insure your property goes to the person or persons you want to receive your property at your death is to meet with an attorney and explore the many options available to you. One such option is to prepare your last will and testament.

You can create a valid will if you are at least 18 years old and are of sound mind. The will must be in writing, signed by you or by another at your direction and in your presence and you must declare that it is your will. The will must be signed in the presence of two competent individuals that will then also sign your will as witnesses in the presence of you and each other. The Nading Law Firm will explain the consequences of some of the most basic choices you must make, such as how to leave property to individuals.

If you want to create an estate plan that expresses you wishes in the event of your death, it is important to contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of estate planning. This very breif explaination of the law is not intended to be legal advice. To be certain about your options, contact an attorney at the Nading Law Firm.

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