Many people are already familiar with traditional wills and understand the need to make a
“last will and testament”—ie., a legal document in which a person instructs the State how to distribute their property or estate after they die. But why does an individual need to draft a valid will before death? Because, without a valid will, an individual is considered to die “intestate”.
Without a valid will or any other form of estate planning, a decedent is considered to have died “intestate”. This means that a probate judge must determine how to divide the decedent’s estate according to the laws of the state in which the person lived. This means that the decedent’s property may not necessarily be distributed according to their wishes.
Without a will, a probate judge must also appoint an “administrator” to represent the estate and liquidate any assets. This administrator is entitled to payment for their services and probate courts will typically compensate this administrator using funds from the estate. This can significantly reduce the value of the estate. But with a properly drafted will and estate plan, families and individuals can ensure that their wishes will be carried out and their loves ones provided for!
A valid will takes the guess-work out of the probate process by informing a probate judge how to distribute a decedent’s estate according to their wishes. A properly drafted will also identifies an individual or “executor” who can carry out the terms of the will. This is typically a family member or other trusted individual. With a valid will, you can rest easy knowing that a person of your choosing will carry out your last will and testament when you are gone!
– Will my out-of-state will work in Utah? Do I need to write a new will if I am leaving Utah?
– If I have homes in multiple states, how will a Court decide which state to open probate?
– What can I do if I suspect that someone will contest my will on grounds of fraud, or claim that I was unduly influenced or was not of sound mind when I signed my will?
– Rather than simply naming people to inherit my property, can I make more complex plans — for example, leave my house in trust to my spouse until he or she dies and then have it pass to my children from a previous marriage?
– Can I disinherit a person previously provided for in my will?