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Utah Probate and Estate Tax Laws

An estate tax is a tax imposed on the transfer of a deceased person's estate, and can be imposed by both the federal and state governments. Currently most states, including Utah, don't collect an estate tax. Up until January 1st, 2005, Utah collected an estate tax that was equal to a portion of the federal estate tax bill. However, federal laws changed and Utah's estate tax was effectively eliminated.

On the other hand, the federal government does impose an estate tax. But, not all estates are required to pay the federal estate tax. As of the year 2015, the federal estate tax is only imposed on taxable estates that exceed $5,430,000. In order to determine the value of a deceased person's "taxable estate," visit the IRS' estate tax webpage.

The Probate Process in Utah

When someone dies they either die testate (with a valid will) or intestate (without a valid will). Either way, the deceased's estate (or at least part of it) will likely go through probate. Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person's estate is distributed, after all debts, claims, and taxes that the estate owes are paid off. However, not all property goes through probate. For example, jointly held property, financial assets with a designated death beneficiary, revocable living trusts, and gifts all pass outside of probate.

As for any portion of the estate that does go through probate, after all applicable debts and taxes are paid off the court will distribute what is left of the estate to the deceased's heirs. If the deceased dies with a valid will, then the probate court will attempt to settle the estate according to the terms of the will. If the deceased dies intestate, then the estate will be distributed according to Utah's laws of intestate succession. The following chart outlines the basics of Utah's succession laws.

Code Section

Utah Code section 75-2-102: The Surviving Spouse's Share

The Entire Estate

The deceased';s surviving spouse receives 100% of the estate if:
  • The deceased doesn't leave behind any descendants, or
  • All of the deceased's descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse

$75,000 Plus ½ of the Remaining Estate


If the deceased leaves behind any descendants who aren't also descendants of the surviving spouse, then the deceased's surviving spouse receives the first $75,000 of the estate, plus ½ of the remaining estate.

Code Section

Utah Code section 75-2-103: Share to Heirs Other Than the Surviving Spouse

Who Get's What?

Any part of the estate that doesn't pass to the deceased's surviving spouse (under section 75-2-102), or the entire estate if there isn't a surviving spouse, passes in the following order to the next group of people where there is someone alive to inherit:
  • The deceased's descendants
  • The deceased's parents
  • The descendants of the deceased's parents
  • The deceased's grandparents
  • The descendants of the deceased's grandparents

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. If you have questions about Utah's probate and estate tax laws, you should contact a local tax attorney.

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