Utah Intestacy Laws Explained

Utah Intestacy Law will govern the distribution of property of the majority of those people who die in Utah.

Intestacy is a fancy word for dying without a will or a trust. The Utah State Legislature decided over 60 years ago what would happen to a person’s property if they did not make those decisions for themselves by making a will.

A lot of people ask me what will happen when they die if they don’t have a will or a trust in place. The answer to that is different based on their family situation and how the individual assets are titled.

Basically, if someone do not talk about all the property that has a beneficiary already designated like life insurance, 401k’s, IRA’s, etc. and those assets that already are jointly owned i.e. a home, automobile, or land, then we have everything else that is subject to the intestacy statute. (This is somewhat misleading, as if someone dies while married and leaves descendants did not stem from the testator and the testator’s spouse at the time of his/her death, then these items are accounted for as part of the estate for the purpose of calculating each heir’s percentage.)

In the following examples, the word, “everything” is used to explain what is left of the estate after creditors, attorneys fees, executors fees, funeral expenses, and other expenses incurred in wrapping up the estate.

Here are several scenarios that demonstrate what could happen depending on the family situation.

  • If you die and leave descendants, but were not married at the time of your death, then your descendants will inherit everything.
  • If you die while married but without any descendants, then your spouse will inherit everything.
  • If you die while married and only leave descendants from you and your spouse, then your spouse will inherit everything.
  • If you die while married and also leave descendants that are not from your spouse, then the spouse will get the first $75,000 and half of the remaining estate and the descendants will receive the other half of the estate.
  • If you die and leave parents but no spouse or descendants, then your parents will inherit everything.
  • If you die leaving siblings, and no spouse, descendants, or parents, then your siblings will inherit equally from your estate.

To read specifically what the Utah State Legislature stated please follow this link.

As an attorney I answer this question all the time for my clients. The big fear is, is that if they don’t have Will or a Trust then everything will escheat (be given) to the State. Although it is possible, it is very rare. Only when someone dies intestate without any descendants, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, or cousins will the property escheat to the state.

Although this may be comforting, the main reason for setting up a will and a trust are 1) to help the heirs not to fight over your property and 2) make it orderly and easy for your heirs to carry out your wishes.

If you die intestate, your estate will need to pay for an attorney and probably an accountant to help you get through probate. The cost of going through probate is often more expensive than getting the will and trust.

Utah Intestacy Law is there as a net if you failed to plan, but using the net is often more costly and burdensome then planning yourself.