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Cheated Out of an Inheritance? Better Stay on Your Toes If You Want to File a Lawauit.

As I discuss in more detail on the post on my Iowa probate blog , a recent ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court significantly changes the time period in which to bring a lawsuit for interference with inheritance.  In short: don't wait very long .

Protection for Elders in Iowa From Financial Exploitation

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What is "elder abuse"? As provided in Iowa Code 235F , elder abuse means any of the following: 1.      Physical injury to, unreasonable confinement, punishment or assault of a vulnerable elder 2.      Sexual offense with or against a vulnerable elder 3.      Neglect by a caretaker of a vulnerable elder a.      Includes the deprivation of the minimum food, shelter, clothing, supervision, or physical or mental health care necessary to maintain life or health 4.      Financial exploitation of a vulnerable elder. Who is considered a vulnerable elder? A vulnerable elder means a person sixty years of age or older who is unable to protect himself or herself from elder abuse as a result of age or a mental or physical condition or because of a personal circumstance which results in an increased risk of harm to the person. Did you know that the elderly poor are at greater risk of financial exploitation than the wealthy? Many low-income older Iowans are financ

Probate Issues in Iowa Now a Separate Blog

Way back in 2009, or whenever I started this blog, I posted about probate topics as well as estate planning.  (I'm not sure I expected to be blogging still in 2020.  My dream of retiring at age 44 and retiring to a caribbean island just didn't materialize.)  Then one day I looked at the site address-Iowa Estate Plan--and decided maybe it made more sense to keep probate topics on one site and keep this as estate planning.  Plus, I purchased the Probate Iowa site and decided I should probably put something on it. There will always be some overlap between the topics, but with the convenience of a computer mouse and a click, you can easily maneuver back and forth to your heart's content. Check out Iowa Probate for posts about probate matters in Iowa.

COVID-19 and Suspension of Physical Presence for the Execution of Legal Documents

Each day gets crazier and crazier on COVID-19's impact on our society, including in the estate planning world.  Under Iowa long-standing law ( Iowa Code sec. 633.279 ), when an individual signs their will, it is required that they sign in the presence of two individuals.  This has been pretty strictly adhered to by Iowa courts in requiring the physical presence of the witnesses. Today, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation suspending the requirement of physical presence of individuals witnessing the signing of wills and medical power of attorney documents provided that the signing takes place where the witnesses and individual can see and hear one another through electronic means, such as video conferencing. The other portion of the proclamation deals with the remote notarization of documents.   Technically, Iowa's remote notary law wasn't scheduled to take effect until July 1, 2020 so the Governor's proclamation essentially "fast tracked" the

Retirement Accounts and Conduit Trusts and SECURE Act. What Do I Need to Do???

The recent passage of the “ Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement” Act (SECURE Act) in December 2019 created some significant changes to retirement accounts.  One big change of SECURE resulted in changes to allowing what is commonly referred to as “stretch” IRA’s. Previously, beneficiaries such as children and grandchildren, were able to have funds withdrawn from an inherited retirement account over the rest of their expected life. That allowed younger beneficiaries to extend (or stretch) the IRA distributions over several years, or potentially decades for very young beneficiaries. The result was that the taxable income was spread over a long period of time that allowed the account to continue to grow (hopefully). With a few exceptions, the stretch IRA is no longer an option and funds from a traditional IRA/401k must be withdrawn within ten (10) years of your passing. Many clients incorporated provisions in your estate plan that used the “conduit” trust as a way

Iowa Guardians and Conservators: Substantial Changes in Store for 2020

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If you are (a) currently acting as the guardian and/or conservator for an Iowa resident or (b) plan to be appointed as guardian and/or conservator for an Iowa resident,  bigly changes are in place for 2020 for annual reports or initial reports starting January 1, 2020 . I'll leave the procedural details out for now.  (Nobody except for attorneys really read those anyway). Maybe another post for another day.  But for the annual reports for guardians and/or conservators, the forms are going from the very basic two pages (or so), to 16 and 19 pages long, respectively.  Granted, some of the information that goes on the forms is fairly simple to fill out, but it is a substantial change to what was previously required under the old statute and rules and will take more time and effort.  But hey, all of the guardians and conservators that I work with have  plenty  of time to learn the new forms, fill them out and either file or have an attorney file them, right? Another questi

Some Gifts Are Not Forever: Iowa's Rule on Confidential Relationship and Refunding of Lifetime Gifts

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A recent ruling from the Iowa Court of Appeals addressed gifts from a parent (now deceased) to a trusted child.  Applying the standard involving "confidential relationships" and gifts during life, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that the recipient of the gifts was required to return the gifts received during mom's life back to her estate. Photo by  Rene B√∂hmer  on  Unsplash Quick facts:  Mom and dad had four kids.  Dad passed away a few years ago and one of the sons started assisting mom with her financial affairs.  This son was also a Florida-licensed attorney (cue the evil character background music).  Unfortunately, sibling love was not bountiful even when mom was alive, which continued after mom passed away.  Following mom's death, it was eventually revealed that numerous accounts and funds had been transferred ("gifted") to the son that was helping mom out, but that the gifts were "at his mother's direction" and his siblings were

Effect of Divorce in Iowa Estate Planning: Do I Need to Change My Will to Keep My Ex Away?

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First and foremost, I don't handle divorces and won't go further with any divorce questions because my knowledge ends with that.  In 20+ years of practice, handling a divorce 20 years ago was good enough to put away those materials. But for those that have gone through a divorce, there is typically the question about how a divorce impacts your estate plan documents.  The Iowa legislators realize that many people don't go through the process to update their estate plans after a divorce, so they have implemented a series of code sections throughout the Iowa Code that essentially provide that if you get a divorce, any provisions that provide for your beloved "ex" are ignored.  Those various code sections are consolidated here to help you sleep a little easier at night: Iowa Code section 598.20A provides that if you list your ex-spouse (or relatives of your ex-spouse) as your beneficiary of life insurance, that designation is ignored. Iowa Code section 598.20B

Avoiding Probate Just Got a Little Easier...For Certain Estates

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Currently in Iowa, if a decedent owns personal property that totals $25,000 or less, and that property would normally pass under a Will or the intestate statute, you can skip probate with just an affidavit .  The governor recently signed a bill that increased that figure up to $50,000 (for deaths after July 1, 2018), along with a few extra new additions to the affidavit. So...what does that mean lawyer boy?  This: If the dead person owned real estate, the affidavit doesn't work. If the dead person owned other types of property that all together total more than $50,000, the affidavit doesn't work. You still have to pay inheritance taxes , if any are due. You still have to pay the creditors, if any. You still have to pay the state back for any Medicaid debts due. Otherwise, you use the affidavit to transfer those small estates. Here's a common scenario where the affidavit could be used: John Smith passes away.  When he died, he owned his truck, lived in an