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Intestacy Law

Intestacy Law

When a person dies without having a valid will in place, his or her property passes by what is called “intestate succession” to heirs under probate law. In other words, if you don’t have a will, the state will make one for you. All fifty states have laws (or “statutes”) of this kind on the books.

The purpose of intestate succession statutes is to distribute the decedent’s wealth in a manner that closely represents how the average person would have designed his or her estate plan, had that person had a will. However, this default can differ dramatically from what the person really would have wanted. Even where it is known what the person intended, no exceptions are made where no valid will exists. Nor are there any exceptions made based on need or special circumstances.

The Uniform Probate Code

The 1990 Uniform Probate Code (the Code) serves as the starting point for many states’ laws. Nevertheless, the laws of different states can vary greatly from each other and from the Code itself. However, the Code represents the best reference for a general discussion.

Under the Code, close relatives take property instead of distant relatives. The classes of relatives whose members receive property under the Code include the decedent’s surviving spouse, descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), parents, descendants of decedent’s parents (siblings, nieces and nephews), grandparents, and descendants of grandparents (aunts and uncles and cousins). Adopted descendants are treated the same as biological descendants. If none of the above-named classes of relatives include any persons qualified to take the estate, the property “escheats” (meaning it goes automatically) to the state of Utah.

The Surviving Spouse’s Share of the Intestacy Estate

Under the Code, a surviving spouse is either entitled to the entire estate (after expenses and taxes of the decedent) or a substantial part of it. For example:

  • The surviving spouse is entitled to the entire net estate if the decedent is also survived by children who are all children of the decedent and the surviving spouse.
  • The surviving spouse is also entitled to the entire net estate if the decedent is not survived by descendants and parents.
  • If parents survive but no descendants survive, a surviving spouse takes the first $200,000 of the net estate plus three-fourths of anything exceeding that amount.
  • If the decedent is survived by descendants who are also the descendants of the surviving spouse, and by descendants who are not descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse takes the first $150,000 of the net estate plus one-half of anything exceeding that amount.
  • If the decedent is not survived by any descendants who are also descendant of the surviving spouse but is survived by descendants who are not descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse takes the first $100,000 of the net estate plus one-half of anything exceeding that amount.

The Descendants Share of the Intestacy Estate

Under the Code, if no spouse survives but descendants of the decedent survive, the descendants take the entire net estate by “right of representation.”

Do the Parents Get a Portion of the Intestacy Estate?

Under the Code, if a decedent is not survived by a spouse or descendants, the entire net estate passes to the decedent’s parents equally or, if only one survives, to the survivor.

What do Other Relatives Get?

Under the Code, if a decedent is not survived by a spouse, descendants, or parents, the entire net estate passes to the decedent’s parent’s descendants (siblings of the decedent). If there are no siblings or descendants of siblings, the net estate goes to the decedent’s grandparents or their descendants.

What is the Net Estate under Intestacy Law?

The “Net Estate” is the amount left for distribution to heirs after all debts, family protections, taxes, and administrative expenses have been paid. “Family protections” include homestead allowances, family allowances, and exempt property allowances.

Intestacy Lawyer Free Consultation

If you are here, you probably have an estate or intestacy issue you need help with. If you do, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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Michael Anderson

About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.