Do I need a will in Utah if I am married and have children?

Stephen Howard — Stone River Law

Real People. Real Solutions.

Do I need a will in Utah if I am married and have children?

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If you are married, and if all of your children are also children of your spouse, and if you your spouse does not predecease you, then Utah intestate succession laws provide that your entire estate will pass to your spouse if you die without a will.  For many people, this outcome may suit their needs.  But if you have children from a previous relationship, if there is a possibility that your spouse may predecease you, if you have children with special needs, or if you are interested in avoiding probate, then a will and a living trust can both be important parts of your Utah estate plan.

While it is generally expected that parents will survive at least till their children reach adulthood, a will allows you to designate who you want to have act as guardian/conservator for your children in the event that you were to die leaving minor children behind.  If your spouse is also the parent of your children, and if your spouse survives you, then the appointment of a guardian is unnecessary.  But if your spouse predeceases you, or if you were to both die simultaneously, then it is important to use your will to nominate a guardian/conservator for your minor children.  Naming a guardian can help avoid conflict among surviving family members over who should be responsible for the minor children.

You may also want to consider using a trust (living or testamentary) to protect assets for your children in the event that your surviving spouse remarries sometime following your death. A trust may also help you avoid unnecessary estate taxes in some circumstances.