No doubt, estate planning can be an uncomfortable thought for some, but it is undeniably important and must be done.
Have you ever wondered what happens if you die without a Will? Unfortunately, when a person dies without a valid Will or estate plan in Utah, they are considered to have died “intestate.” Utah is one of the many states within the U.S that has enacted the Uniform Probate Code — intestate succession, which is a predetermined method for the distribution of the decedent’s estate. Unforeseen occurrences are a reality of life. Hiring a professional estate attorney to plan for your family and your estate may offer you asset protection and ensures that your loved ones are cared for when you pass on.
Understanding Utah’s Intestate Succession Law
Intestate succession laws vary from state to state. However, in Utah, when a person passes away without an estate plan, their estate is subjected to intestate succession laws. Therefore, their assets and property will be distributed to their heirs based on the line of succession.
According to Utah probate laws, the surviving spouse will inherit their assets if the deceased individual was married. If the decedent has descendants (children, grandchildren) who aren’t related to their surviving spouse, then the spouse is only eligible to receive a portion of their assets. In this case, the surviving spouse will only receive $75,000 of the decedent’s intestate property and half of the value of the estate. Whatever is left will be equally divided amongst the decedent’s children. The calculation is complicated because assets that pass through beneficiary designation or by joint tenancy also affect the distribution.
If the deceased individual wasn’t married, their estate would be inherited by their descendants, children, or grandchildren. If there are no descendants, then their estate would be passed on to their parents. If their parents aren’t alive, then their assets would pass to their siblings.
Some people are content with relying upon intestate succession laws. However, if you have a blended family, adopted children, or a problematic relationship with a relative who can potentially become an heir, having a Will in place is critical. If you die without a Will in Utah, you relinquish control over how your assets are distributed.
Who Gets Guardianship Of Your Children?
If you have children, it is important to know that there are not any intestate succession laws regarding the guardianship of children. Therefore, if a minor child’s parents pass away without a Will that designates who they desire to have guardianship of the child, anyone can petition the Probate Court to seek custody.
In cases where there is more than one interested party, the courts will determine which candidate is most suitable. If you have children under eighteen, you will want to make sure that they are well taken care of in the event of your death. Selecting a guardian and naming them in your Will is the only surefire way to establish this choice as legally binding.
Will The State Inherit Your Property?
If there are no living relatives found, your estate can pass into “escheat.” This means that your estate is passed onto the state. Yet, this rarely happens because intestate succession laws are designed to pass your assets and property off to anyone remotely related to you. For example, the descendants of a spouse who passed before your death are also eligible to receive your estate if there are not any closer relatives.
Intestate Succession and Probate
When a person dies with a Will or without a Will in Utah, their assets will first have to first pass through probate. Probate is a judicial process that determines the distribution of assets and property in the deceased individual’s estate. For many reasons, probate can be a lengthy and expensive process.
Although the probate process in Utah isn’t as extensive as it is in other states, it can still be inconvenient for families who have suffered a devastating loss. In some instances, establishing a Revocable Trust is advisable. Transferring your assets to a Trust means your family doesn’t have to go through the probate process. It also eliminates challenges to the estate that can occur with a Will. A Trust allows you to disinherit anyone who challenges the measures you’ve set upon your death.
Establishing a Trust offers numerous benefits. When you establish a Trust, you will need to designate a Trustee who serves at your incapacity or death. The Trustee acts on your behalf and is authorized to make important decisions regarding your property and finances. This should be someone you trust to have your best interests in mind.
Estate Planning Is Essential To Protecting Your Estate And Your Family
Dealing with death and planning for what comes after can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be.
With ProvenLaw, you can work through these complexities together with expert legal counsel and get the help you need to decide on the delicate estate planning choices you will need to make to ensure that your loved ones are well cared for in the event of your passing.
Whether you need to adjust an existing trust or are looking to create a new will, please contact us for your complimentary personal consultation and we’ll get you on the road to peace of mind.