If you landed on this blog post because you have recently lost a family member and are searching for information on what to do next, let us first tell you how very sorry we are for your loss. We understand how difficult death can be. Whether you were close to the family member or not, and whether their passing was unexpected or not, it can be a highly emotional time. There are many practical matters to attend to, such as planning their funeral and burial; there also may be many legal or financial issues you have to sort through before you and your family can fully move forward.
Depending on what level of prior planning the deceased did before they passed, their estate – everything they owned – may have to pass through a Utah court process known as probate, or estate administration, before their possessions and assets can officially be transferred to their beneficiaries. Probate is unfortunately a complex ordeal. It involves a lot of paperwork and time, and can become expensive. Because most people have never even heard of probate before they go through the death of someone close to them, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out how the Utah probate process works and what they need to do to complete it….that’s one of the reasons our law firm exists. As experienced trust, estate, and tax lawyers, we have extensive knowledge of the ins and outs of probate and are well-equipped to simplify the path ahead. Probate is probably the last thing you want to be doing, but we can help take the burden off of you and handle everything so you can grieve in peace.
The first step to navigating probate successfully is understanding what is required of you and what the process involves. Here is a brief summary of why probate has to happen and whether it can be avoided, what responsibilities you have as the estate executor or personal representative in charge of the process, what steps you need to follow, and how our attorneys may be able to assist you.
Does Probate Always Need To Occur In Utah?
The Utah probate process typically needs to occur if someone passed away, owned assets in their name only, and did not have a trust or comprehensive estate plan in place before they died. Even if they had a will, probate will still likely need to happen before their assets, such as their house, for example, can be sold, renovated, and given to their surviving family members according to the terms of their will (or according to Utah’s intestate laws, if no will existed).
However, assets that were owned jointly, or that were accounts with beneficiary/payable on death/transfer on death designations (such as bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc.) can bypass probate.
If your loved one passed away without a trust or estate plan, and with property solely in their name, probate can’t be avoided – but there are two probate “shortcuts” that your loved one’s estate may be eligible to take!
One of these is known as a small estate affidavit. If the value of the estate is less than $100,000, and there is no petition for appointment of a personal representative pending, and at least 30 days have elapsed since the death, then the inheritor can sign a document known as the Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property in a Small Estate Proceeding. After signing the document and having it notarized, all that needs to be done to claim assets is to show that document to the asset holders, such as the bank, who will release the assets.
The other shortcut is a shorter, simpler version of traditional Utah probate known as summary administration. If the value of the entire estate after debts are taken out does not exceed the sum of the homestead allowance, exempt property, the family allowance, the costs of probate, reasonable funeral expenses, and reasonable final medical expenses, you don’t have to give notice to creditors or wait for claims to be filed. The process will be wrapped up much more quickly and with less hassle.
If you’re totally lost by that lingo, don’t worry – a Utah probate lawyer can advise you as to whether or not probate can be avoided in your specific situation. Our firm offers free consultations where we can discuss your options.
What Steps Do You Need To Complete In The Utah Probate Process?
If you do end up needing to oversee a full probate proceeding of your deceased loved one’s estate, you may be named as the estate executor or personal representative in charge. You may be responsible for the following actions:
- Submitting the will to the probate court shortly after your loved one passes away
- Filing a petition to open probate proceedings
- Locating, gathering, and inventorying assets
- Appraising assets
- Formally notifying creditors, beneficiaries, and the public
- Settling outstanding debts with creditors
- Filing final tax returns
- Paying outstanding taxes
- Distributing assets to heirs
- Filing a final accounting of the estate
- Filing a petition to close the estate
- And more.
Throughout the process, you may need to complete even more steps, such as communicating with the courts, filing other paperwork, keeping a record of your actions, responding to any creditor claims, and more.
Potential Pitfalls To Be Aware Of
The Utah probate process has many deadlines and fees associated with it. If you miss deadlines, even unintentionally, or if you make any mistakes in the paperwork, you could face fines and additional court fees that could deplete your inheritance. As the personal representative/estate executor, you are legally liable for the process, meaning that if creditors are looking to sue or other heirs are disputing the will or your actions, you will be the one being sued personally, which can cause a whole legal mess that you will be responsible for sorting out.
That’s why it is recommended to work with an attorney who can prevent mistakes, resolve disputes before they reach the litigation stage, and protect you from liability.
About ProvenLaw’s Probate Team
The compassionate Utah probate lawyers at ProvenLaw are here to ensure that the probate process goes as smoothly as possible and is settled as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. Our goal is to protect your loved one’s legacy and your peace of mind! We can guide you every step of the way to a resolution. Our team will take the time to answer your questions and explain all of your options; we will communicate with you frequently, but handle the details for you so you can relax. We have 95+ years of collective experience on our side that can be to your advantage! Call today to book a free 30 minute consultation and learn more.