If you die without a will in Utah, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state "intestate succession" laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Utah.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
To learn more about these types of assets, go to the How to Avoid Probate section of Nolo.com or read about Avoiding Probate in Utah.
Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here's a quick overview:
If you die with:
here's what happens:
|children but no spouse||children inherit everything|
|spouse but no descendants||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and descendants from you and that spouse||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and descendants from you and someone other than that spouse||spouse inherits the first $75,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance
descendants inherit everything else
|parents but no spouse or descendants||parents inherit everything|
|siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents||siblings inherit everything|
In Utah, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.
If you die with no descendants, or if all of your descendants are from you and your surviving spouse. Your spouse inherits all of your intestate property.
If you die with descendants who are not the descendants of your surviving spouse -- in other words, you have children or grandchildren from a previous relationship. Your spouse inherits the first $75,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance. Your descendants inherit everything else.
If your spouse will split your property with others, there's another rule to bear in mind: The value of any nonprobate transfers -- for example, a house that passes through joint tenancy or a transfer of any of the other kinds of property listed under "Which Assets Pass by Intestate Succession," above -- will be added to the intestate estate. The nonprobate transfer is considered an "advancement," meaning that its value will be deducted from the spouse's intestate share. If the amount of the advancement exceeds what the spouse is entitled to under intestate succession laws, the spouse will not have to pay anything back, but he or she will not inherit anything more.
Example: Barrett is married to Jed and has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett and Jed own a house worth $275,000 in joint tenancy, and Barrett owns $300,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if she had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed owns the house outright; it doesn't go through probate. However, the value of the house is added to Barrett's intestate estate, giving it a total value of $575,000. Jed's share of the intestate estate is $75,000 plus $250,000 (half of the balance), for a total of $325,000. The value of the house is deducted from the total as an advancement, so Jed actually inherits $50,000. Barrett's daughter inherits the rest of Barrett's intestate property.
If you die without a will in Utah, your children will receive an "intestate share" of your property. The size of each child's share depends on how many children you have, whether or not you are married and whether your spouse is also your children's parent. (See the table above.)
For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Utah must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it's not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.
This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney. If you want to read the laws themselves, you'll find a link to the Utah Code at the end of this article.
If you die without a will and don't have any family, your property will "escheat" into the state's coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won't go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, nieces or nephews, cousins of any degree, or the descendants of a spouse who dies before you do. (See Utah Code § 75-2-103.)
Here are a few other things to know about Utah's intestacy laws.