Sunday, February 12, 2012

Time Period to Administer a Probate Estate in Iowa

Iowa law limits the time period in which to administer an estate of an Iowa decedent.  Iowa Code section 633.331.  If an estate is not opened up within 5 years after death of the decedent, it will not be able to opened up.  Iowa currently does not recognize any exception to this rule.

What does that mean? If there is a will and you wait more than 5 years after death before doing anything, you've waiting too long.  Good luck on the headaches of transferring any assets at that point.

This doesn't mean that you always have to probate an estate, but if there are any possible assets that may need to be distributed, don't wait.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

how long typically does an estate have to be completed.

Matthew Gardner said...

On my average, it is typically about a year. Sometimes longer, occasionally shorter. The assets and family issues affect the length.

Anonymous said...

Matt,
My sister and I co-executors of my fathers estate. My sister is named as having fiscal responsibility so both his daughters did not have to sign checks.He had real estate (owned by his dummy incorporation). My sister is refusing to open probate and me and the other heirs have been trying very hard to communicate with her and we are getting no where. What are our options?

Matthew Gardner said...

Under Iowa law, you can force an individual to file the will (if she has it). Otherwise, you can proceed to probate without her cooperation. Even if you open an estate intestate (no will), it can be converted later on to testate (with a will). Getting the issue before a court helps with getting communication, although it can be bad communication.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! The lawyer already has the original copy of the will. I will speak with him and see how proceed.

Anonymous said...

My non-resident deceased spouse and I own a $28000 house jointly with his brother and wife, in Iowa. Probate opened in Idaho, ancillary just opened in Iowa as we have an accepted offer on the house. I am the personal rep. How long can I expect this process to take?
Thank you.
Mary

Matthew Gardner said...

Ancillary probate time is typically the same, if not longer, than regular probate. Thus, a year could be average time before completion.

Anonymous said...

Matt,

The executor of my mother-in-law's estate was a friend of hers. She owned property abroad, and left a will detailing the disposition of her assets. Though the transfer of this property (to us) has not yet been completed (it is the final item), the executor and his lawyer have closed the estate. The last action taken on transferring the property was to send documents to an attorney in the foreign country, but no follow-up has been done, and no acknowledgement/response from that attorney has been received. How can it be that the estate was allowed to be officially closed with this distribution outstanding? What options do we have to resolve this? I appreciate your time and attention.

Matthew Gardner said...

If the disposition of the Iowa assets has been resolved, the Iowa estate can be closed. The Iowa attorneys do not have the ability to handle transactions abroad. Those would need to be handled by that counsel. While I may have handled it differently, your next step would be to engage the services of foreign counsel to deal with that property. The Iowa job was completed, and the baton was tossed to the next attorney.

Anonymous said...

If it is not the Iowa executor's responsibility to see all property transfers through to the end, then who is responsible? The foreign attorney who was contacted is under no obligation, and could certainly leave this matter unresolved with no penalty to him. The property is not yet in our names, and I am under the impression that we therefore cannot contact anyone about it officially.

Matthew Gardner said...

The Iowa executor would not have authority over the out of state property until they are appointed as executor in that country, or whatever process is necessary. If they refuse to do anything further, you could seek legal counsel in that country about having someone else appointed as executor (yourself) to handle that property as the prior executor is refusing to act apparently.

Lyndsey Jo said...

My father just passed away, leaving no will, only a house (almost paid off) & a bank account w/safe deposit box. My question is how long does the probate period take? His heirs are my 2 younger brothers & myself (oldest). Also the house/estate is worth over 100k I'm wondering if the attorney gets 6% of the estate if its paid?

Matthew Gardner said...

Lyndsey Jo-

Probate can take anywhere from 6 months to 18 months (or longer), but on average around a year. The fees should not be greater than 2% of the estate.

ex iowa resident said...

Mr. Gardner

Sir, My question is: My mother died in Iowa in 2008, my brother was named executor in the will. In July of this year he put it in probate. I understand that code 633.331 puts a time limit of 5 years. How is it possible to probate the will after the 5 years have pasted. And thanks for your time.

ex iowa resident said...

Mr. Gardner,

I need to add to my prior question on probate after 5 years. My mother had property in Iowa which she left to her children. The house has been vacant most of the time. Why my brother waited until now is a mystery. Order admitting the will and appointing executor has been filed along with certificate of approval of will. What effect will the will have since it's been longer the 5 years.

Matthew Gardner said...

The code is pretty clear about the time limit. It reads: "Probate of a will, original administration of an intestate estate, or ancillary administration of an estate, shall not be granted after five years from the death of the decedent, whether the decedent died within or without this state, unless a petition for probate or administration is filed prior to the expiration of the five-year period. However, this section does not apply to the probate of a will of a decedent who died prior to January 1, 1964."

I'm guessing the Judge may not be familiar with this code section. Not too sure what the "effect" will be. For example, a title examiner if you try to sell the property may object. Or, it is possible all could sail through without any problems. This is one of those situations where "the law says this", but until anyone objects, it could slide under the radar.

Former Iowan said...

My Dad passed away in December of 2014. It took all of 2015 to complete the sale of the farm and we received a portion of the estate. My nephew was renting the farm, so there was rental income in 2015. We were told that the balance of the estate would be released in late January or early February. Nothing was seen and we waited for more information from the attorney. Then the second week of March, we were told we would all be receiving a tax document for rental income. Since several of the beneficiaries had already filed, I reviewed tax law and saw that the estate could still file the tax return since all the money from the estate hadn't been distributed. The executors asked how much longer it would be and the attorney gave them a vague answer saying taxes have to be filed and there is a lot of paperwork to be done. I was told the taxes were completed in mid-March. Are we being unreasonable in asking for this to be completed in a more timely manner or is this normal?

Matthew Gardner said...

The "average" time period is about a year. I have had estates, for various reasons, take longer than a year to complete. Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes not my fault. There can be various factors involved that can cause a delay so it is difficult to say whether or not this time is reasonable or not. A polite inquiry on a projected time frame (do it it writing or email) can hopefully expedite the process.

Anonymous said...

My ex husband and father of my two adult children died recently. He was married at the time of his death. From what i have read, my adult children have no right to an inheritance so his will would control, if he has one. If he died intestate, his surviving spouse will take everything through probate. Is this correct? Is there a requirement that the will (if one existed) be filed with the District Court, would my adult children be entitled to see the will?

Matthew Gardner said...

Anonymous- If there is no will, then under the Iowa intestate rules, the children would take half. (There is a minimum amount the widow is entitled to.) As to filing the will, yes, there is a requirement that a will be filed with the court. Once filed, it is a public document that anyone can see.

HOWEVER (and this is a big however), if your ex owned the assets jointly with his wife or if he had her as the beneficiary (e.g., life insurance), then nothing passes by intestate (or the will) but it passes as a result of the joint ownership or beneficiary designation.