A Quick Guide to Utah Intestate Succession Laws

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It’s natural to contemplate where your assets go when you pass away, and one step you shouldn’t overlook is drafting a will to blueprint the distribution of your assets. Teaching your next of kin intelligent financial management skills is also essential to preserving the wealth you leave behind.

However, there are instances when someone fails to create a will before passing. In such cases, the Utah intestate succession laws leave the state responsible for determining who receives what based on predefined rules. Let’s explore the Utah intestacy laws to help you minimize the risk of family disputes over inheritance.

What Is Intestate Succession?

Intestate succession is a legal process dictating how the government distributes a person’s assets upon death without a valid will or trust. It follows a predetermined hierarchy of inheritance based on familial relationships and state laws, particularly Title 75, Chapter 2 of the Utah Code.

If you’re a high-net-worth individual, the stakes are exceptionally high since the absence of a will often leads to uncontrolled distribution of substantial assets—often not optimized for taxes. Thus, this law should not be a substitute for a properly drafted will to ensure your final wishes are carried out precisely.

Which Properties are Subject to Intestate Succession?

Knowing which properties are subject to Utah’s intestate succession laws gives you a clearer picture of how the state may distribute your assets without a will.

Properties subject to intestate succession laws:

  • Real property. This asset consists of land, condominium units, or any structures and improvements attached to them.
  • Personal property. It refers to movable assets like furniture, jewelry, and vehicles.
  • Bank accounts and securities. Savings accounts, stocks, and other financial assets under your name are also subject to intestate laws.

Properties not subject to intestate succession laws:

  • Life insurance proceeds. Life insurance policies let you designate beneficiaries during your application.
  • Retirement accounts. IRAs, 401(k)s, and pensions usually require you to designate beneficiaries, which take precedence over intestacy.
  • Joint tenancy property. Properties held in joint tenancy—equal property ownership with someone else—automatically pass to them upon your death.
  • Payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts. When you die, the funds or securities in these accounts go directly to your named beneficiaries, bypassing probate.

Who Gets What Based on Utah Intestacy Laws?

Utah’s intestacy law extensively discusses the survivorship rules determining who gets to inherit your estate and in what portion. Below is a summary of this hierarchy. However, consider consulting with a lawyer if you’re unsure of your situation.

Situation Who Gets What
Surviving spouse but no children Spouse inherits everything
Surviving spouse and children Spouse inherits everything
Surviving spouse, with surviving children from another relationship Spouse inherits the first $75,000 and half of the remaining balance; children inherit the other half of the remaining balance
Surviving children but no surviving spouse Children inherit everything
No surviving spouse or children Parents of the deceased inherit everything
No surviving spouse, children, or parents Siblings of the deceased inherit everything
No surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings Property is divided among the paternal and maternal grandparents, or if they are not surviving, it is divided among the deceased’s aunts and uncles on both paternal and maternal sides

There are some critical factors to consider when determining intestacy. First is the survivorship period, which requires your heir to outlive you by 120 hours or five days to inherit from your estate. It prevents situations where your heir’s death shortly after your passing complicates asset distribution. Furthermore, Utah treats half-relatives as full-blood relatives to ensure fair distribution.

Finally, let’s say your child is born after your death but conceived before you passed. In this case, Utah recognizes them as a posthumous relative entitled to inherit as if they were born while you’re alive, provided they survive 120 days after birth.

How to Prevent Family Disputes over Inheritance

Due to the incredible stakes of being a high-net-worth individual, your descendants may devolve into infighting while trying to determine who would take over your assets. So, consider following these practices beforehand.

First and foremost, draft a valid will

As mentioned, a will is the foundation of effective estate planning. It serves as a legally binding instruction for asset distribution, in which you specify the people to inherit your property and in what proportions. 

Hold a family meeting

This gathering allows you to explain your will’s rationale. Here, you can address concerns and encourage your family to clarify potential misunderstandings about your estate plans. In doing so, you minimize disputes in the future.

Uphold the importance of wealth stewardship

A family that is well-informed in the matters of responsible financial management is less likely to make disputes. So, emphasize these principles in your estate plan to instill a sense of responsibility among your heirs.

Give gifts during your lifetime

In addition to providing for your family through a will, consider gifting them assets as a proactive way of reducing disputes down the line. It also minimizes claims after death since your heirs know to whom you want your assets to go.

Consult a financial and estate planner

Estate planning may be complex, but you don’t have to do it alone. A professional financial or estate planner can provide valuable insights as you draft your will and help you identify potential challenges. 

Secure Your Wealth for Your Loved Ones

Estate planning goes beyond asset distribution; it also encompasses communication and foresight. After all, you want to transfer your assets without breaking up your family. So, practice the above strategies to ensure your estate plan echoes your wishes and safeguards your heirs’ financial well-being while keeping your family together upon passing.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help from financial advisors at Tencap Wealth Coaching. We can equip you with brilliant teams with the knowledge and resources to make better-informed estate planning decisions without breaking the bank.

Contact us today to learn more and get some coaching in this space.

Photo of Nick Carrigan
Nick Carrigan
Wealth Advisor

Nick trains and develops families in creating, maintaining, and growing wealth. This includes educating clients on the science and academics of investing, comprehensive financial planning, and ongoing coaching to ensure discipline for a lifetime. Nick has seen this create incredible levels of freedom, fulfillment, and love for the families he works with.

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