Estate Planning and Probate

Estate Planning and Probate

Have you planned for the inevitable? Are you looking to name a guardian for your children or do you need to decide who will receive your property when you pass?

Our attorneys at Smith Peterson are here to listen and advise you on these legal and family matters that can give you peace of mind knowing that everything is taken care of.

Estate planning is defined as the act of preparing for the transfer of a person's wealth and assets after his or her death. Many people, mistakenly, believe this type of planning is meant only for the wealthy. Your assets include much more than just the balance in the bank. Your life insurance, pension, real estate, vehicle, personal property and even your debts are all items that factor in to your estate. Essentially, estate planning provides an opportunity to protect your loved ones from the burden of excessive tax while allowing you the opportunity to see that your wishes are fulfilled. There are many components that may be part of an Estate Plan. Here in Council Bluffs, Iowa the experts in Estate Planning at Smith Peterson Law Firm can help you navigate these potentially complex matters to find the best solution for you and your loved ones.

Last Will and Testament:

Commonly referred to as simply a will, this public record is a legal document by which a person can expresses their wishes as to how their property is be distributed at the time of their passing.

Durable Power of Attorney:

This document, often prepared with a Last Will and Testament, is your opportunity to appoint someone to oversee your affairs in the even that you become unable to do so.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions:

The legal document that identifies an individual of your choosing who is designated to make decisions for your medical care in the event that you cannot make these decisions independently.

Living Will:

This document is prepared detailing your wishes for medical treatments to be allowed or disallowed in the event that you lose the ability to express your consent, also known as an Advance Directive.


Often, but not always, a close relative of the person creating the will, is named to manage their final wishes. Frequently, a married couple will name their spouse as their executor but you can choose any party you believe will have your best interests in mind. The duties of the executor are vast and vary with the contents of the estate for which they are responsible.

Asset Protection:

You have worked hard for your money. Now, you need to protect it! A single lawsuit can have devastating effects on your family if you have not acted ahead of time to protect your wealth. Through the use of Limited Liability Companies, a Family Limited Partnership, and an Asset Protection Trust, we at Smith Peterson can create a plan that will enable you to live your life free from the fear of lawsuits.

Living Trust/Revocable Trust:

Establishing a trust is a process by which your assets such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, life insurance, and 401(k), are placed into a trust for your benefit during your lifetime and then upon your passing, are transferred to your selected beneficiaries by your representative. Establishing a trust can be beneficial in that it allows your beneficiaries to receive your gifts without going through the probate process, which in turn, can save them money. Additionally, a trust provides privacy and is not made public. In the event that you become gravely ill and incapacitated your trustee can step in to manage your affairs until you recover. Due to it's revocable nature, your control is maintained as if you dispute the trustee you are able to regain control for yourself.


The grantor is the person who is establishing the trust.

Irrevocable Trust:

This type of trust is established to transfer all rights of ownership to the trustee to hold for the beneficiary. This means that creditors cannot take the assets in the trust into consideration as they are no longer the property of the grantor.


Probate the is the legal process by which a will is proved in a court of law and accepted a valid public document. This is typically a routine matter of authenticating the will, determining the value of assets, payment of final bills and expenses and finally distribution of remaining assets to the beneficiaries. If an individual passes without having at least a valid will in place the probate process includes the court assigning an administrator to fulfill the role otherwise held by an executor as named in a valid will.

Preparation for end of life can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Avoiding the uncertainties of probate court and providing clarity for your loved ones in your absence is the final gift you can give. Having a compassionate attorney on your side as you navigate your role as executor provides great comfort. Smith Peterson Law Firm, right here in Council Bluffs, IA, is your partner in Estate Planning and Probate.