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Probate Law West Des Moines

Be Wary of Transfer on Death and Payable on Death Accounts

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The use of transfer on death and payable on death registrations for bank and investment accounts has increased dramatically.  Banks and investment firms are pushing their clients to sign the forms claiming that the forms will eliminate the need for probate administration. Chapter 633D of the Iowa Code deals with transfer on death registrations which applies to investment accounts.  The Act allows the owner to designate the beneficiary of the account in the event of the owner’s death.  The beneficiary form may be cancelled or changed at any time by the owner without the consent of the beneficiary.  The Act

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Big News for Family Settlement Agreements

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The Iowa Department of Revenue has had a long standing position that it will not accept Family Settlement Agreements to change the calculation of Iowa Inheritance Tax.  The Department has always relied on the original Will or Trust to calculate the amount of inheritance tax owed to the State of Iowa.  A recent Iowa Court of Appeals decision has changed the long standing policy regarding Family Settlement Agreements.  Family Settlement Agreements arise in estates or trusts where the beneficiaries of the Estate or Trust agree to enter into an agreement to change how the assets of the Estate or Trust

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Iowa Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

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On April 20, 2017, Governor Branstad signed the Iowa Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act which is codified in Chapter 638 of the Iowa Code.  The Act broadly defines “digital asset” to mean any electronic record in which an individual has a right or interest.  However, the term “digital asset” does not include an underlying asset or liability unless the asset or liability is itself an electronic record and the term “digital asset” does not include health information or individually identifiable health information as those terms are defined in the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. 

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Administration of Small Estates

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Chapter 635 of the Iowa Code sets forth a provision dealing with the administration of small estates.  In order to qualify for a small estate, the gross value of the probate assets of a decedent must not exceed $100,000.00.  Probate assets do not include life insurance proceeds and retirement plan benefits if such items pass by designation of beneficiary form.  The provisions for fees for the personal representative and the attorney for the estate are different from the regular probate provisions set out in Chapter 633 of Iowa Code.  Under the small estate statute, the fees for the personal representative

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Benefits of Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions

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Last month I discussed in detail Living Will documents which are used to insure the rights and desires of terminally ill or comatose individuals are honored.  This month I will focus on Powers of Attorney for Health Care Decisions and how they work with Living Wills.  If a person is unable to make health care decisions and does not have a Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions, it is necessary to file a Petition for Appointment of Guardian with the Iowa District Court to appoint a Guardian to make health care decisions and decisions as to where the individual

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More About Mediation

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In last month’s blog, Jim Beatty discussed the mediation program for probate matters in Polk County. This blog will piggyback on that blog. Recently, I have had my first experience facilitating a mediation involving a probate matter. In anticipation of the mediation event, I did some research regarding styles of facilitating a mediation event and the styles of the positions of the disputing parties. Not only is it important to clearly identify a mutual understanding of the disputed issues, but equally important to identify the emotional impact which both have related to the dispute. The fact issue will most often be an economic (business matter)

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Mediation In Probate

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Recently the Iowa Supreme Court approved on a trial basis a mediation program for probate matters in Polk County, Iowa. Under the program, the Polk County Probate Judge has the ability to refer matters to mediation at his discretion. Unlike arbitration, where the arbitrator makes a decision which is binding on the parties, a mediator works with the parties to help them reach a decision which is agreeable to the parties. The mediators for the program will be experienced probate attorneys who have gone through mediation training. Both Jim Beatty and Ned Miller of our office completed 24 hours of mediation training in April of this

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Skepticism as a Useful Tool

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I am not suggesting that one must be a skeptic but rather that constructive doubt is useful in my profession.  I need to have an understanding of the differences among (1) what I think, (2) what I believe, and (3) what I know. With regard to thinking, it involves the development of a process by which I gather information.  It is being open-minded, being non-judgmental and does not evaluate the information or documentation assembled. With regard to what I believe, it involves looking at the information and the documentation assembled and sorting through the information and documentation to analyze which

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Don’t Hide The Important Documents From Yourself

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After a person has signed his/her Will, the most often asked question is, “what do I do with my Will”. There are a variety of responses to that question. Among the answers are: A safe deposit box which can present another problem at your death; A secured strong box in your home; The Trust Department of the bank if you have named the bank as executor of your estate. If you place your Will in your safe deposit box, make certain that you have authorized your spouse, at least one of your children or a trusted friend to have access

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