Making a will in Utah is a significant first step to your estate planning goals. You should be responsible for who receives your property and who cares for your young children. A will simplifies the probate process after you die. But how do you make a Utah will? We have the answers to your frequently asked questions.
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What If I Die Without a Will in Utah?
A person who dies without a will in Utah is “intestate.” As such, a probate court must follow state intestacy laws determining who inherits your estate. You may not like the result. Under the Utah code, your estate passes to your spouse and descendants, if any. Otherwise, it goes to your next of kin. So if you have a life partner but are unmarried or you have a stepchild that you have not adopted, they do not inherit anything. And if the court cannot determine your next of kin, your estate goes to the state of Utah.
Also, a court decides on child custody without your input if you have minor children.
What Does a Will Do?
A last will and testament is a legal document allowing you to state your wishes about who handles your estate, inherits your assets, and cares for your minor children. In your will, you can do the following:
- Appoint a personal representative or executor to manage your estate
- Identify specific personal property and real property (real estate) and name beneficiaries for that property
- Name beneficiaries to receive the remainder of your assets
- Appoint guardians for your young children
- Name caregivers for your pets
- Make charitable donations
With a will, the probate process moves more quickly, saving your family and loved ones time and money.
What Doesn’t a Will Do?
While you can leave property and assets in your will, there are specific assets you own that do not pass by a will. These “non-probate” assets, accounts, and policies transfer to the beneficiaries you name. These accounts and policies may include the following:
- Funds in transfer on death bank accounts and investment accounts
- Proceeds from life insurance policies and annuities to named beneficiaries (other than your estate)
- Pensions, retirement benefits, 401(k)s, IRAs, and Keogh accounts
- Any property owned as joint tenants with the right of survivorship
- Any property in revocable living trusts or irrevocable trusts
It is a good idea to check the beneficiary designations on your accounts and policies. And name a backup beneficiary in case your primary beneficiary dies before you. Any assets or proceeds without a beneficiary go back into your probate estate.
Who Can Make a Will in Utah?
Under Utah law, a testator (the person making the will) must meet certain qualifications, namely age and mental capacity.
- Age: The testator is 18 years of age or older.
- Sound Mind: The testator has a sound mind. A sound mind means the testator understands what property they own, who would naturally inherit their property, and the effect of signing their will.
Utah residents with concerns about if they can make a will should contact an estate planning attorney for legal advice
Does Utah Have a Statutory Will?
No. Utah does not provide a specific will format or statutory form. You can either do it yourself or hire an attorney. Many people use online estate planning tools such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services to create a will conforming to Utah laws.
What Types of Wills Does Utah Accept?
There are different ways to make a will, but Utah only accepts certain formats. Knowing what types of wills that Utah recognizes is a good idea.
- Handwritten Will: A holographic will is a will written entirely by the testator and signed without any witnesses. Utah permits holographic wills only if the testator’s signature and material portions of the document are in the testator’s handwriting.
- Oral Will: An oral will or will that the testator speaks is also called a nuncupative will. Utah does not permit oral wills.
- Electronic Will: An electronic will is a will signed, witnessed, or notarized by electronic methods. Utah does not recognize electronic wills at this time.
Most wills are printed or typed with witnesses to the testator’s signature. A simple handwritten will without witnesses may be subject to challenges based on fraud or undue influence.
Can I Make My Own Will in Utah?
Yes. You can create your own will in Utah. If you have a simple estate and know what property you own and who you want to give it to, you can make your own will. A benefit of using online legal services such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services is that you can easily customize and update your will. For example, if you have a new child or a death in the family, you can easily revoke your old will and make a new one.
How Do I Make My Will Valid in Utah?
To make your will valid, you must follow Utah’s specific requirements.
- Signature: The testator signs their will or directs someone in their presence to sign on their behalf.
- Witnesses: At least two witnesses see the testator sign their will or acknowledge to the witnesses that the signature is the testators. Some states prohibit interested witnesses, meaning witnesses who receive something in the will. You may use interested witnesses in Utah. However, you may want independent witnesses so no one can claim an interested witness unduly influenced you.
- Notary: A testator does not need a notary to attest to their signature. But you need a notary if you want to use a self-proving affidavit.
- Self-Proving Affidavit: A self-proving affidavit is a statement you attach to your will in which the testator and witnesses swear before a notary that they signed the will and met all the requirements. This affidavit lets the personal representative submit the will to probate court without getting the witnesses to testify.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Utah?
No. Unless they waive their rights to your estate through a pre-marital or post-marital agreement, you cannot disinherit your spouse. The surviving spouse may receive an elective share if you leave them out of your will. An elective share is a part of a decedent’s estate that a spouse may claim if left out of the will.
Can I Disinherit My Children in Utah?
While a child does not have the right to inherit from their parents, if a child is born or adopted after the signing of the will, they may receive an omitted child’s share, similar to an intestate share. A child with no surviving parents may receive a family allowance, some exempt property, and a homestead allowance. If you want to specifically disinherit a child, you may want to state it in your will along with the reason.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Utah?
A will gives you peace of mind and makes things easier for your family after you die. But you should consider other estate planning documents that are helpful during your lifetime.
- Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint someone you trust as your agent to make financial decisions for you when you cannot do so. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interest. You determine what powers to grant your agent and when your agent’s authority begins and ends.
- Health Care Directive. A health care directive or living will allows you to name a person to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable. It also lets you leave instructions about life-sustaining treatments and end-of-life care you may or may not want. If you don’t leave your wishes, your loved ones have the burden to decide for you.
Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Utah estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.