To make a valid will in Iowa, the will must be:
- In writing;
- Signed by the testator;
- Witnessed and signed by two witnesses.
The basic requirements for a valid will under Iowa law can be found at Iowa Probate Code § 15-2-502.
Who Can Make a Valid Will In Iowa?
Iowa law permits any emancipated minor or any person eighteen (18) or older who is of sound mind to make a valid will. Iowa Probate Code § 15-2-501.
To be of sound mind (to have testamentary capacity) under Iowa law, the testator must:
- Understand the nature of the instrument he is executing;
- Know and understand the nature and extent of his or her property;
- Know the natural objects of his bounty; and
- Know the distribution he wants to make.
The Iowa Supreme Court stated, in Walters v. Heaton, 271 N.W. 310, 313 (Iowa 1937):
Ability to transact business, generally, is not essential to testamentary capacity. Advanced age, failure of memory, senile dementia not shown to render the testatrix of insufficient mental capacity to understand the nature of the act, to recollect the extent of her property and the natural objects of her bounty and their claims upon her, and to comprehend the manner in which she wishes her property distributed, childishness, mental weakness, and old age are not, of themselves, sufficient to deprive her of testamentary capacity.
An Iowa Will Must Be Signed By the Testator
Iowa probate law requires that a valid will must be signed by the testator OR signed in the testator’s name by some other person in the testator’s presence and by his direction.
Therefore, if a testator is unable to sign the will himself, because of some physical limitation, Iowa law permits someone else to sign the testator’s name. The signing must take place in the presence of the testator and at the testator’s direction, or the Iowa will is not valid.
An Iowa Will Must Have Two Witnesses
To be valid, an Iowa will must also be signed by at least two witnesses, each of whom witnessed either the signing or the testator’s acknowledgment of the signature of the will. Iowa Probate Code § 15-2-502.
Any person 18 years of age or older generally competent to be a witness may act as a witness to a will.
Witnesses should be chosen wisely, because these will be the people testifying as to the circumstances of the execution of the will should such testimony be necessary.
Does an Iowa Will Need To Be Notarized To Be Valid?
No, it is not a requirement under Iowa law that a will be notarized in order to be valid. However, even though it is not required, it is a good idea to make your will “self-proved,” which is done in front of a notary.
A will is made self-proved at the time it is executed by the testator and the witnesses signing an affidavit describing the execution of the will. Iowa law provides form language to make a will self-proving, which should be substantially followed. See Iowa Probate Code § 15-2-504.
When your will is self-proving, it will generally not be necessary to have the witnesses testify about the execution of the will.
The best way to make sure that you have created a valid will under Iowa law is to work with an experienced Iowa probate lawyer.