Law on the Last Will & Testament in Iowa

By Beverly Bird

Iowa accepts wills made in other states and countries as long as the requirements of that state or country are met. Otherwise, wills must meet the criteria in Chapter 633 of the Code of Iowa. The state does not accept oral -- also called nuncupative -- wills or holographic, or handwritten, wills if they are not signed by witnesses.

Basic Requirements

You must be 18 years old to make a will in Iowa, as well as have a clear understanding of what you are doing. You must sign the will unless it is physically impossible for you to do so. In that case, someone else can sign for you, but it can’t be one of your other witnesses to the will.


An Iowa will requires two witnesses who must be 16 years of age or older. If either witness is a beneficiary in your will, you will need one more in addition to that individual -- unless he is an heir. An heir is someone closely related to you who would inherit from you according to Iowa’s laws if you die without a will. If the witness is an heir and you do not have a third witness in addition to him, then he can only inherit what he would have received if you had died without a will.

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Self-Proving Provisions

Iowa accepts self-proved wills. A self-proved will is one with a sworn statement attached to it and is also signed by witnesses. The statement indicates that you made the will with full knowledge of what you were doing, and have met all of Iowa’s criteria. It must be notarized. A self-proved will eliminates the need for your witnesses to appear in court after your death and testify that your will is authentic.


Codicils are additions to wills, either adding provisions to them or changing one or more provisions. They are legal in Iowa as long as they meet all the same requirements that a will must meet.


Iowa only allows you to bequeath property that is held in your sole name. You cannot bequeath anything that you co-own with another individual or any asset that has its own named beneficiary. For instance, life insurance policies and retirement assets usually have their own designated beneficiaries. Your beneficiaries cannot receive property if its liquidation is necessary to pay off your debts.

Marriage Laws

Your spouse has the choice of accepting either the bequest you made to him in your will, or a statutory percentage of your estate -- what the law says he should receive. In Iowa, this is one-third of your estate's total value. In 2006, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the share a spouse can elect to receive in lieu of a bequest includes even assets placed in a trust. However, if you divorce, all provisions in your will relating to your spouse are declared null and void.

Laws Pertaining to Children

Iowa allows you to disinherit your children as long as you state explicitly in your will that this is your intention. Otherwise, if a child is born or adopted after you write your will, and is not included in your will, the state assumes this to be an oversight. The child will receive a portion of your estate equal to what she would have received if you died without leaving a will.

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Washington Law for Legal Wills

The state of Washington does not recognize unwitnessed wills, and only recognizes oral wills in very limited circumstances. It does, however, generally recognize wills that are valid under the laws of other states. An interested person can act as a witness to a Washington will, but only with certain serious consequences for that person's ability to collect under the will.

North Carolina Laws Regarding Wills

Every state has its own specific statutes when it comes to wills. A will that doesn’t comply with North Carolina’s laws is generally void, and North Carolina will dispose of your property according to rules of inheritance, giving it to your most immediate kin regardless of your intentions. If you write your own will, it is always advisable to use an attorney to review it before you assume it to be valid, according to North Carolina’s statutes.

Does a Will Supersede Spousal Rights?

Generally, a person’s will governs the distribution of his assets when he dies. However, some rules apply to guide this distribution, such as rules that prohibit distributions to a pet. These rules vary by state, but many states have laws that mandate a certain minimum inheritance between spouses; thereby, keeping one spouse from disinheriting another spouse.

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