Iowa residents can use a last will, a living trust or both as part of their estate planning. Iowa has specific state laws and rules that lay out how to set up a valid Iowa will or trust. You may wish to consult an Iowa attorney before making your estate plan to help you decide whether a will, a trust or a combination is right for you.
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Your will, sometimes called your "last will," leaves your property after your death to the persons you name in the will. It also allows you to appoint an executor who will manage your estate after you are gone, and a guardian for your child or children if they are under age 18 when you die. Your Iowa will must show your signature and the signatures of two disinterested witnesses who are not receiving anything from your estate, according to Iowa State University.
Iowa Living Trust
A living trust is simply a trust you make while you are still alive. It is called a "living trust" to differentiate it from a testamentary trust, which can be created by your will when you die. In Iowa, most living trusts are revocable, meaning that you can change or destroy the trust at any time. A revocable living trust does not come with any tax advantages under Iowa law, according to Iowa State University. However, it does allow you to pass on your property without the need to go through probate, which means your relatives or beneficiaries may receive their shares of your property more quickly. The saved time may be valuable if, for instance, you leave a spouse and/or children who relied on your income and need money for household expenses when you are gone.
Combining an Iowa Will and a Living Trust
Iowa law allows you to use both a living trust and a last will in your estate planning. One benefit to using both methods is that you can leave property to persons or charities without the delays of probate by putting the property in a trust, but you can also name a guardian for your minor children by making a will. If you have children, the will and trust can work together to ensure they have the guardian you choose and ensure they have an income from the trust to pay their educational, medical or daily expenses of living, according to Iowa State University.
Other Iowa Estate Planning Options
Iowa law also allows you to use other estate planning options besides those offered by your last will or your living trust. For instance, if you die without any estate plan at all, Iowa law will distribute your property to your closest living relatives, or to the state if you have no living relatives. To avoid this scenario, you may use a will, a trust, and/or certain non-probate assets like joint bank accounts, jointly held property and life insurance that lists certain chosen individuals as the beneficiaries, according to Iowa State University.