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Who inherits a person's estate if he/she dies without a will in Utah?

Under the Utah probate code, a person is considered to have died "intestate" if the person has not executed a valid will.  In such circumstances, the distribution of that person's estate is determined by those sections of the Utah probate code governing intestate succession (Utah Code Ann. 75-2-102 et seq.).

In most cases, there will be either a surviving spouse or children.  Utah intestate succession laws give priority first to a surviving spouse.  If the person's spouse is not living, then the estate passes next to any surviving children.  If no children are living, the estate passes next to other living descendants.

In cases where there is no living spouse or other child or decendant of the person, Utah intestate succession laws look next to the person's parents.  If the parents are not living, the estate passes next to decendants of the person's parents (typically the person's siblings or nieces/nephews).  If no such decendants are living, then the estate next passes to living grandparents, or decendants of grandparents (uncles, cousins, etc.).  If no such individuals have survived the person, then Utah law next looks to decendants of any deceased spouse.

Most often, there will be some heir identifiable under this system of intestate succession.  However, if no heir ("taker") exists, then the Utah Probate Code (section 75-2-105) dictates that the intestate estate passess to the State of Utah "for the benefit of the state school fund."

Preparing and executing a valid will and trust will help ensure that your estate passes in the manner you choose.  A properly developed estate plan can also help avoid the necessity of probate.

To learn more about creating a will, trust, or other estate planning issues, contact Utah attorney Stephen Howard today for an initial consultation.

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