Iowa Probate Records

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United States Probate  > Iowa > Iowa Probate Records

Iowa probate records date from about 1834, when the first county in the state was created. Probate records are an important source for family history research and are one of the best ways to link individuals to their parents, children and sometimes to brothers, sisters, and grandchildren. They may not give an exact death date, but you can assume the death generally occurred within a few months of the date of probate. Wills usually mention the names of heirs and frequently specify how those heirs are related. Names of children may be given, as well as married names of daughters. See the Probate Records page for more information about probate records.

A probate court was created in each county when Iowa became an organized territory. These courts were responsible for settling estates. Probate courts were eventually discontinued, and probate matters have since been the responsibility of the district courts. Before 1887 some probate cases were settled in circuit courts and from 1851 to 1868, some in county courts. Probate records may include:

  • Administration: Gives authority to the administrator to settle the estate.
  • Distributions: The manor in which the deceased's possessions are allocated.
  • Dower Rights: Dower rights are the rights that a non owner spouse has in the real property of his or her spouse.
  • Estate File: The file containing information about the property left by the deceased, to be dispersed between the surviving heirs.
  • Guardianship: Probate Guardianship is when the Court appoints an adult who is not the child’s parent to take care of the child or the child’s property. [1]
  • Intestate: When an individual dies without leaving a will. [2]
  • Probate Case File: All of the various loose papers that have been created throughout the probate process. These are bound together and archived by case number; they are also called a case or estate files, or probate estate papers. [3]
  • Letters of Administration: A document from a probate court allowing the administrator of an intestate estate to settle the estate. [4]
  • Letters Testamentary: A document issued by a probate court empowering the executor of the Estate to discharge the appointed responsibilities. [5]
  • Settlements: The finalized accounting of how the estate was divided among the heirs, with the heirs acknowledging they have received their fair portion and will make no other claims with the estate. [6]
  • Wills: A legal document directing how the deceased wants his or her assets bestowed on others. [7]

You can write to the clerk of the district court for copies of wills, administrations, dockets, calendars, and other records.

Family History Library

The Family History Library has microfilm and microfiche copies of many probate records, including some will records as late as the 1970s and indexes to the 1990s.

  • A quick overview of probate records that can be found at the Family History Library can be seen in this list.

Probate records are listed in the Locality Search of the The Family History Library Catalog under:



  1. Superior Court of California County of Santa Clara
  3. Ancestors Glossary
  6. Ancestors Glossary