Wills are like letters to the judge. Let’s say it is you we’re talking about. You wrote a will, and then you died. Sorry, but it’s bound to happen at some point. Your will goes to probate. This is the most likely scenario for you. The judge then looks at your will as if you wrote him or her a letter. “Dear Judge, I have kids, please give them 1/4 of my stuff. Please don’t give my crazy ex-wife/husband anything.”
The Will then becomes a public document and a hearing is held on whether the Will should be followed. Wills are contested and law school textbooks are full of the examples of how and why these documents are fought, contested, and the inheritance spent, all in court battles over whether you meant what you said. Judges are trying to make things fair, so you may find that what you wanted and what a judge thinks is fair may be two different things.
What Happens When Your Loved Ones Do Not Have Wills?
We’re going to assume that your loved one was an adult (age 18 or 21, depending on the state) and did not leave a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate.” When someone dies intestate, the courts, not the person’s survivors, will determine how his or her property is to be divided, based on the laws of the state in which the person lived. For example, the law in Utah is that the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse if there any children are from both the decedent and the surviving spouse; otherwise, $75,000.00 plus half of the remaining estate (after paying taxes and debts) goes to the surviving spouse and the other half is divided among children not from the surviving spouse. If your loved one had children from a previous marriage or was divorced and hasn’t remarried, state laws will determine if and how much property is distributed to these survivors.
Intestate, That Sounds Gross!
Intestate just means that you don’t have a will. It’s not gross. If your loved one died intestate, you will have to request the court appoint an administrator for his or her estate. An administrator generally does everything an executor does. The one major difference is that the administrator is required to represent the estate according to state laws applicable when an individual dies without a will. Administrators can request from the court payment for their services to the estate. Those expenses are paid by the estate and reduce how much is available to the beneficiaries. It is possible that a family member may be willing to serve as administrator without charging a fee.
What’s Better Than Just a Will?
A Trust and estate plan drafted by a competent attorney will do more for your family than just avoid the confusion that happens without a will. With a trust, you avoid probate, avoid the courts, and avoid public records, avoid most of the costly issues that come up when you just leave your estate to chance and the courts.
An extremely valuable reason for creating a Utah Living Trust is to provide your family and heirs with the answers they need.
Your Living Trust can help you preserve and increase your estate while you’re alive, and offers protection should you become mentally incapacitated. The Living Trust is the road map you provide for your family and directs the transition of control and ownership of property, the transfer of real property, and administration of your estate and wealth when you may be otherwise unable to make your own decisions.
Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer
If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506
Helpful Estate Law Articles
What Happens if you pass away without an Estate Plan?
Domestic Violence in the Presence of a Child