What do Princess Diana, Barry White and Jimi Hendrix have in common?
They all sparked bitter disputes among grieving family and friends because they didn’t leave watertight instructions on how their property should be divided when they died.
Princess Diana’s executors failed to act on a “letter of wishes” because it didn’t have the legally binding status of a will, while neither White nor Hendrix wrote a will at all.
Writing a will is like paying the gas bill you’ve just got to sit down and do it.
If you fail to make a will, do not assume your partner will keep the house. Your estate will be divided among relatives. And if you have no relatives, it all goes to the state. Persons above the age of majority may legally decide how their property is to pass at death, and wills are the normal way of directing who gets what. Married people often leave their entire estate to a surviving spouse, although they aren’t legally required to. If the “decedent” is a child’s second parent to die, the estate often passes to the child and his or her brothers and sisters. This would happen regardless of whether the children are minors.
A will is a legal document but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive to write. If your affairs are relatively straightforward, you can do it yourself. You can buy statutory forms from stationers or books that tell you how to do it. But it is always advisable to speak to an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer.
Die without a will and you die intestate, which means that your possessions are distributed according to the law of intestacy, not necessarily the way you would have intended. For example, most people assume that their possessions will automatically pass to their husband or wife or even to their unmarried partner. This is not the case. It is very important for everyone to have a will. You don’t have to be an extremely wealthy individual with assets worth millions to have a will. A will has nothing to do with the size of your assets. Speak to an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer today to discuss how you can make your will. Contrary to popular belief, if someone dies intestate, his or her property isn’t forfeited to the government.
Why make a will?
Making a will is the only way to make sure that your money and possessions go to the people you choose. If you have young children you can appoint guardians through your will to care for them after your death. In the absence of a will, Utah intestacy laws will decide what happens to your money and possession after you die.
Whatever you do, don’t use forms. Get help from a probate attorney. Pre-printed forms are available at stationers and online. You could just fill them up or you could draw up your own. But, unless you have a legal background, you could end up leaving major problems. There have been several cases where home-made wills have been successfully challenged in court. Seek the assistance of an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer to make your will. The lawyer will draft the will according to your instructions. A will drafted by an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer will be difficult to challenge on the grounds of validity. There are certain requirements for a valid will. It must be signed by the testator – the person whose will it is and at least two witnesses.
Making your own will
Always use the services of an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer when making your will. The lawyer’s fee will be well worth it. The will will be customized for your specific circumstances. You can also use the many online will writing services but these usually rely on computer program, and the staff are unlikely to have had legal training. You may end with a will that is not valid under Utah probate laws. In an age of do-it-yourself legal services, it can be tempting to try and handle common legal matters ourselves, especially in a recession. When it comes to wills and probate issues, this can be a big mistake.
Contents of a Will
In a will, the first thing to do is to appoint executors to deal with your estate (this is what your possessions are called when you die). Appoint a guardian if you have young children. If you don’t, someone will have to apply to the courts for guardianship.
Think ahead when choosing a guardian – grandparents may be fine to look after a three-year-old for a day now, but what would happen in ten years time?
If you want someone else to look after the money you leave to your children, this should also be included in your will.
Set down who you want to benefit from your will. Put in precise details about each beneficiary including their full name, address and relationship to you, and what you want them to receive.
If they die before you, the gift will go back into your estate unless you name someone else as beneficiary.
Ideally children should not be given access to their inheritance until they reach 21 or 25, when they are more mature.
Your will must also be witnessed by two people. However, they cannot be a beneficiary in your will, nor be married to one. You cannot use your spouse as a witness.
Appointing Executors or Personal Representatives
Most people tend to choose one or two close friends or family members, such as a spouse or grownup child. Two are better than one in case one dies before you. Alternatively, a professional, such as a lawyer or accountant, can be appointed – but they usually charge a fee. You could add a clause into your will giving your executors powers to appoint a professional to carry out part of the work.
Changing your will
If you change your mind after making a will, you can still change it. A document to change a will is called a codicil. An experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer can assist you make changes to your will. If the changes are minor then a codicil can be added to the will. If they are major, after a divorce or remarriage for example, then a new will should be written revoking the previous one.
Legally Avoiding Estate Tax
You can legally avoid estate taxes but it is vital to get professional advice. You could put money into a trust. There are other estate planning devices that you could set up in your life time to ensure that your family members get to enjoy your assets after your death without having to worry about estate taxes.
You can disinherit your spouse or child but only under a will and not under the laws of intestacy. Intestacy laws in Utah do not consider your emotions. The law only takes into consideration your relationship.
Minor Beneficiary of a Will
If a minor inherits property, he or she cannot sell it, spend it or do anything with it whatsoever. Because minors are legally incapable of managing their own property (except bank accounts), a probate court often will appoint a property guardian to handle their financial affairs. In an inheritance situation, property guardians often are nominated in the decedent’s will. Property guardianships can be complicated and inconvenient, particularly if the minor owns or inherits substantial property. For this reason, parents often create “trusts” during their lifetime to manage property that their children stand to inherit. With a trust, money or property is set aside by one or both parents before death. After they die a “trustee” manages it for the minor and distributes it when the minor becomes an adult. The property never needs to pass through a probate court proceeding.
Although trusts are easy to establish, less costly than guardianships, and subject to little court supervision, an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer should draft the trust document. In addition, the trustee should contact an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer if problems arise with the trust’s management.
Dying without leaving a will
If you die without a will, you are said to have died intestate. Your money will be dished out according to strict rules. These take no account of modern family life, such as people living together and having children without getting married, and the rise in the number of step families. If you die without making a will, your spouse inherits first, followed by children.
Financially dependent unmarried partners can go to court to get provision from the estate, as can someone who lived with the deceased as man or wife for at least two years up until their death.
Even if you feel that the above intestacy rules will suit you this is still no reason not to write a will. Apart from the fact that things could change, intestacy could mean that your preferred beneficiaries may not have access to any money at all for an extended period, as your assets could be frozen until all the formalities have been sorted out.
If you have a valid will it should take no longer than three months to obtain probate and release your assets to the people you have chosen.
Given that more and more people are finding that their estate will potentially be subject to Estate Tax writing a will can prove to be a valuable tool in mitigating this potential liability.
With a simple piece of financial planning, the right will combined with the right arrangement could potentially save a typical family thousands of dollars in inheritance tax.
It doesn’t take long to make a will. As for the cost, an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer will charge you a reasonable fee.
Making a will is simple
The first rule is to keep it simple. Here is a brief guide:
• Start it: “This is the last will and testament of…” with your name, address and the date.
• You must state you “revoke all former wills and codicils and testamentary provisions”.
• Include details of executors and any special wishes, such as for your funeral.
• Mention any tax and expenses that need to be paid.
• Then outline your gifts and legacies. Describe possessions so they are easily identified.
• Say who should get the remainder of your estate and who it goes to if they are dead.
• Finally, there needs to be an `attestation clause’ with your signature and those of two witnesses, plus their details. Neither witness nor their spouses can be a beneficiary.
• Keep the will in a safe place at home, at your bank, or with your lawyer. Tell executors where it is.
An experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer can help you make a valid will.
Probate in South Jordan
Leaving a will outlining how you would like your estate divided after you die is not only a good way to make sure your wishes are honored, but it also makes a naturally stressful time easier for your heirs. Unfortunately, many people draw up wills believing that doing so will help avoid probate. That however is not true. A will must be probated. Probate is the legal process for determining the validity of a decedent’s will (when one exists), collecting the decedent’s property, paying all debts, and distributing the estate to the proper persons. Utah has separate probate courts that supervise the orderly administration of decedents’ estates, whether or not the person died with a will. When a will goes through probate, anyone who wants to challenge the will can file an application in the probate court challenging the will. There are various grounds on which a will can be challenged. Most often relatives who have been disinherited by a will challenge the will on the ground of undue influence. They claim that the beneficiary or someone else exerted undue influence on the testator to ensure that the testator disinherits them. Another common ground for challenging a will is fraud. If you are the executor of a will and someone has challenged the will during the probate process, contact an experienced South Jordan Utah probate lawyer.
Free Consultation with a South Jordan Utah Probate Lawyer
When you need help with a will, trust or probate, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506