It can often be uncomfortable to think about future planning, but it is a very necessary part of protecting your assets and maintaining them for any potential future heirs or beneficiaries. While wills and advanced directives are helpful legal tools to direct this process, they are not always created before the time of one’s death. When this happens, there are other legal processes enacted, such as intestate succession. In this blog post, we discuss what intestate succession is, and how it is applied in the state of Utah.
What is intestate succession?
Intestate succession is what gives the state and other parties the ability to oversee the passage of your assets, money, or other items to appropriate parties as dictated by the state’s succession laws. This is enacted if an individual were to die without any form of advanced will or directive on their behalf, as they are no longer able to control who has possession of the assets. The laws for this vary by state, and it is a legal concept and process that requires the oversight of a legal professional and the court system in your state.
While this option seems significantly easier than putting in the time, effort and investment into creating a legally binding will or directive, this is by no means the best solution to address the situation of your assets in the event of your death. This option allows the court and other legal entities to determine who gets the assets in the context of how an average individual would have made their choices in their own estate plan. The court does not take into account any sort of family problems, nuance, preference, or other outside opinions, leaving living relatives to feel potentially confused, unseen, or otherwise displeased with how the process has been executed. If there is an option, it is always better to plan ahead and prevent future confusion or unforeseen cost for the remaining family members or successors.
Who gets what with intestate succession laws in Utah?
While all intestate laws vary by state, every state does have them to ensure that any citizen under their jurisdiction is able to be treated fairly and in alignment with the wishes of the average individual — even after death. The laws that govern intestacy in the state of Utah, like many others, are based on content found in the Uniform Probate Code. Essentially, this document is a guiding set of preferences, laws, and inspirations for the present-day state laws.
Currently, the code dictates that the surviving spouse or domestic partner would get the contents of the estate. However, just because the Probate Code has this listed as an option or preference, it doesn’t mean that is what the court will determine is proper. In the state of Utah, the law is in alignment with this code. However, there is always a possibility for variance or differentiation based on the judge’s determination over the details of the case.
In the event that you do not have a spouse and that you are unmarried at the time of your death, you can expect that any living children will be in possession of your estate. If you didn’t have any children, and you are unmarried, it is likely that any living siblings will get the contents of the estate. There are always other nuances to consider when it comes to the allocation of the estate. For example, you may have been dating a significant other at the time or may have step-children from a prior marriage that has since ended. These different situations and variances make for a more complex probate case. Contacting a skilled estate lawyer before your death or after the passing can help you to navigate the case in the context of the available details, and is a valuable investment no matter what your situation is.
What is distributed and included in the estate?
The contents of each estate will look different for every decedent. Your estate can be comprised of anything that you’ve collected or created in your life that can be passed on to other members of the family. Common inclusions to one’s estate include:
- Investment accounts, Roth IRA’s, stocks, bonds, or retirement account contents
- Cryptocurrency and NFT’s
- Property, be it a personal residence, storefronts, or land parcels
- Any contents that may be available in a living trust that you were a beneficiary of
- Physical items, pieces of furniture, keepsakes, or heirlooms
While this list is not exhaustive, it does include what many may find in the estate of someone who has passed in a state of intestacy.
If you are wanting to pre-plan your estate, the experts at Ascent Law are here to help. With years of legal experience and hundreds of successful clients, we have the skills and background you need to successfully navigate your case. For more information, contact us today at (801) 432-8682.