The importance of having a will or trust so that you, not the state, can decide how your assets are distributed after your death can be revealed in Utah intestate law. Under Utah Probate Code Ann. 75-2-102 et seq., a resident who dies without leaving a valid legal will is said to have died “intestate.”
How the assets and property are distributed is determined by this Utah probate code that governs intestate succession laws, not by you or your family. Unfortunately, the estate may not be inherited by those that you intended to benefit from a bequest.
Who Inherits the Estate?
The heirs who normally get a bequest under intestate succession are the person’s spouse or children. The spouse is at the top of the ladder. If you die and have a living spouse and children only by her, your spouse will still receive the entire estate. However, if you have a spouse and at least one living child by another person, the law is quite different. The spouse is only guaranteed to get the first $75,000, plus the remaining half balance. The other half of the balance goes to all the living children of the deceased, no matter whom the other parent is. This could hurt the financial condition of your spouse without intending to do so.
If the deceased never married or there is no living spouse, then the estate passes to all the children and is divided equally. If there is no surviving spouse or children to inherit, then the estate will go to a surviving parent. In the event there is no surviving parent, then the estate passes to surviving descendants of the deceased parents, normally their brothers and sisters (siblings.) If no parent has any surviving descendants, the court will grant the estate to any grandparent still alive. If there is no living grandparent to inherit, the estate will pass to any living descendants of your grandparents.If there are still no living relatives as described above, then the State of Utah will try to locate the relatives of the deceased spouse next.
Confused Over the Law?
Confused yet? That is why it is so important to have a will so that your valuable estate will go to exactly who you want it to. To make it a little simpler, following is a summary. If the deceased has no living spouse or children, Utah intestacy laws define the next of kin entitled to inherit as grandchildren, great-grandchildren first, then parents, then brothers and sisters, then other descendants of the deceased parents, than other more distant relatives.
Contrary to what you may have heard through the grapevine, the estate will not normally be forfeited to the state. The State of Utah will do everything to find a family member entitled to the estate, no matter how distantly related they appear to be. So, it is a rare instance in today’s technology age that the State cannot find at least one next of kin who has the right to the estate. But is this really what you want?
Meet with the trust and estate planning attorney Rex B Bushman to protect your family and assets with a will or trust plan.