May 192016

By Sr. Laura Goedken

If you have tuned in to the news in recent weeks, you will have heard that the famous singer, Prince, did not have a will.

Sr. Goedken

Sr. Goedken

When someone dies without a will — known legally as dying intestate — laws in each state govern how the assets are distributed and to whom.
If you die without a will in Iowa, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Iowa.

If there is a spouse and children of their marriage, the spouse inherits everything. If there are siblings but no spouse, descendants or parents, the siblings inherit everything. Family circumstances vary so much and each needs to be dealt with differently. State law regulates distribution of the estate when there are children from a previous marriage or the children are foster children. The court’s job is to make sure all family members are protected.

A will is a document that financial advisers or estate lawyers usually advise clients to have. A will states what assets go to whom.

Many valuable assets bypass the will, and aren’t affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:

• property you’ve transferred to a living trust;
• life insurance proceeds;
• funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account;
• securities held in a transfer-on-death account;
• payable-on-death bank accounts, or
• property you own with someone else in joint tenancy.

These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will.
Is it time for you to check your estate plans? If you have questions or would like a wills planning guide, contact Sister Laura Goedken, OP, at (563) 888-4252 or

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