Intestacy – Dying Without a Valid Will in Utah

Nearly everyone fears death. So, it is unsurprising that two out of three US adults do not have a will in place. We tend to avoid thoughts of our own death, but acknowledging our own mortality is necessary. Because intestacy (dying without a valid will) isn’t just a modern parable for the rich and famous, it happens every day to ordinary people like us.

Stating what you want through a living trust or will is crucial to ensure your wishes for the people you love and the things you care about are carried out after you’ve passed away.

There are plenty of cautionary intestate tales of celebrated stars from the Prince of Pop – Michael Jackson, to Prince, and the Queen of Soul herself – Aretha Franklin. The legendary estates of these music royals were left in shambles. Not because each of their deaths were unexpected, but because they did not have crucial estate planning documents in place.

The moral of stories like theirs is that you are never too famous, too rich or too young for end-of-life planning.

Famous or not, everyone should have a will. Contact Utah-based attorney, Eric Froisland to find out how easy it is to protect your family by preventing conflict and disputes over your property with affordable estate planning.

What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Utah?

While the COVID-19 has forced many of us to contemplate our own demise, there are still only about 1/3 of American adults who have a will. For individuals who die without a will or other requisite estate planning documents; your assets will be governed by Utah’s intestacy laws in accordance with Utah Code §75-2-101 to 114.

When an individual dies in Utah, his or her estate is brought into probate proceedings. The purpose of a will is to tell the court how you want your assets to be distributed (after the creditors are paid) during these proceedings. But without a will, the division of your assets will be directed by Utah’s intestacy statutes while in probate.

Who Gets What Under Utah’s Intestacy Succession Law?

If you die without a will, the provisions to inherit your assets will depend on family succession to identify the beneficiaries. To be eligible to inherit assets under Utah’s intestacy succession statutes, the beneficiary must outlive you by 120 hours. Here is an overview of Utah’s intestacy succession guidelines:

  • A Spouse with No Descendant will inherit everything.
  • A Spouse with Your Descendant(s) Only will inherit everything.
  • Descendants but No Spouse will each receive an equal intestate share.
    • Legally Adopted Children will also receive an equal share.
    • Foster Children are not eligible to receive intestate shares.
    • Children Place for Adoption and legally adopted by another family are not eligible.
    • Grandchild(ren) will receive a share only if their parent (your child) is deceased.
    • Posthumous Descendants conceived before your death and born after your death will inherit an equal intestate share – but the baby must survive 120+ hours after birth.
  • A Spouse and Children who are not related to the Spouse, the Spouse will inherit the first $75,000 and 1/2 of the remaining balance from your assets.
    • Your Children, in this instance, will inherit the other half of intestate assets.
  • Parent(s) but No Spouse or Descendants will inherit everything.
  • Sibling(s) but No Spouse, Descendants or Parents will inherit everything.
  • Half-Relatives may receive the same inheritance as any ‘whole’ relative listed above.

*A descendant is an individual’s direct biological child(ren), grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Can Utah State Take My Property if I Don’t Have a Will?

While Utah’s intestacy laws are designed to pass your property down, by succession, to your relatives – yes, it is possible. In rare circumstances, a completely orphaned individual’s assets will escheat (reversion of property to the state) to the Beehive State’s coffers. This can only occur if no living relatives are be found.

What Assets Are Safe from Intestate Laws?

Only those assets that are under your name and in your sole possession can be included for distribution according to intestate succession. However, there are a few – very specific – asset classes not affected by Utah’s intestate succession. These assets are will pass directly on to a pre-determined beneficiary, including (but not limited to):

  • Ownership of Property in joint tenancy with right of survivorship terms will pass on to the co-owner(s).
  • Property held by a beneficiary deed (aka transfer-on-death deed) will go to the chosen beneficiary.
  • Bank Accounts that are payable-on-death (POD) go to a surviving spouse first, then to the POD beneficiary after the spouse’s death.
  • Life Insurance Proceeds are paid to the beneficiary of a policy after a death claim has been filed, then approved with the insurance company.
  • Funds from Retirement Accounts can be withdrawn by the beneficiary immediately upon transfer. *income tax will have to be paid for the year the funds are withdrawn.
  • Securities with a transfer-on-death designation allows the beneficiary to gain control over these assets at the time of the account holder’s death.

What if I have an Outdated Will?

If you have an outdated will in place, it can easily be cancelled in one of two ways. In accordance with Utah Code §75-2-507, the first option is to create a new will containing a statement to revoke all prior wills. Or, physically destroy the document itself to void it.

Need Help Creating a Living Trust or Will in Utah? Planning for the future with the right combination of individualized estate planning tools can provide financial security for your family and save them from unnecessary frustration and stress when you’re gone. Contact Eric or call 801.290.2130 for trusted legal counsel to help create your last will and testament, establish a living trust for your children, identify healthcare directives for end-of-life care and naming an executor or power of attorney to protect your personal values and secure your assets after you’ve gone.