Wills Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah

For many Utah families, a last will and testament is their most foundational estate planning document. Some families choose to create a trust-based estate plan, but a trust is not a substitute for a last will and testament. Depending on your situation, a will may be sufficient for your estate planning needs.


Ensure Your Wishes are Fulfilled Through a Will

Creating a last will and testament will help you ensure that your wishes are fulfilled regarding your assets after you pass away. When you create a will, you have control over how your property will be distributed. You can give your property to whomever you like and according to your wishes. You can also give your property to a non-profit or charity of your choice. You can appoint a personal guardian to care for your minor children and manage their property. Wills do need to be in writing.


The Requirements of a Valid Will in Utah

There are a few requirements for a valid will in Utah. First, the testator creating the will must sign or acknowledge his or her will in front of two witnesses. The witnesses must be 18 or older and of sound mind when they sign the will. The witnesses must sign the will within a reasonable time after the testator signed or acknowledged the will. You do not have to notarize your will to make it legal in Utah. We recommend having your will notarized to make it “self-proving,” which can speed up the probate process. The court can accept the will without needing to contact the witnesses. 


Leave Property to Those You Choose

Sometimes people assume that their loved ones will automatically receive all of their estate when they pass away. However, you will lose control over your estate without a last will and testament after you pass away. When someone passes away without a will in Utah, they die intestate, and a probate court will oversee the distribution of their estate. 

The probate judge will distribute their assets according to Utah’s intestacy laws. The individual you would like to inherit your property may not receive your property under Utah’s intestacy laws. Suppose you are not legally married but have a long-term partner. Your partner will not receive anything under Utah’s intestacy laws. 

Or, if you are getting divorced but your divorce is not final, your soon-to-be ex-wife or husband will be able to claim your estate. The state of Utah may take your estate if the probate court cannot find any of your heirs who have a right to inherit your property.


Choosing Your Executor

When you create a last will and testament, you will be able to choose the executor who will be in charge of ensuring all of your wishes are carried out. When choosing an executor, you should consider who will be willing to handle everything involved with closing out your estate. You should also choose someone you can trust and who will be able to comply with Utah’s probate laws. 

When you do not have a will, the probate court will appoint someone to administer your estate. The person the court appoints may not be someone you trust or someone you would choose to be executor. 


Creating a New Will or Changing a Will in Utah

Has it been a while since you wrote to your will? Has your life changed significantly? Changes in your life circumstances, including the loss or gain of assets, divorce, the birth of a new child or child, the passing of a loved one, or new employment may require you to change your will to address these life changes. Postponing the modification of your will can be tempting, especially with the busy lives we all lead. However, emergencies can happen at any time, and it is best to update your will as soon as possible so you can ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. 

Depending on the circumstances, you may need to set up a new will and destroy the copies of your old will. If you are unsure whether you need to modify your will or create a new one, our experienced estate planning attorneys can provide you with skilled legal advice and update your will as needed.


Will Contests and Litigation in Utah

In many cases, the probate process goes smoothly. Once the executor files the deceased individual’s will, the probate court will pay off any debts and then distribute the assets according to the terms in the will. Will disputes do occur in some cases, however. The beneficiary of the will who will inherit assets from the estate can bring a legal claim against the estate executor. When this occurs, the executor must defend against the will contest. When a beneficiary contests a will, he or she is claiming that the will is not valid. There are several different types of will contest, including the following:

  • The will was not correctly signed or witnessed;
  • There is more than one version of the deceased individual’s will, and there is an excellent reason to question the validity of the most recent will;
  • The decedent lacked the necessary capacity to understand what he or she agreed to do when the most recent will was written and signed. Incapacity can be caused by coercion, dimension, drugs, or advanced age.

Beneficiaries can also bring a claim against the executor for breach of fiduciary duty. Estate executors have a legal duty to the beneficiaries. They must notify the beneficiaries when the will has been filed and manage the estate until the probate process is complete. If you are involved in a will contest or a claim against the executor, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Sometimes breach of fiduciary duty claims and will contests can be resolved in the early stages, saving everyone involved the expense of a courtroom battle in litigation. We advise our clients of the potential gains, losses, and risks of their legal options.