Do I need a will in Utah if I am not married and have no children?

Stephen Howard — Stone River Law

Real People. Real Solutions.

Do I need a will in Utah if I am not married and have no children?

Last Updated

If a person who is unmarried and has no children dies without a will, Utah’s intestate succession laws dictate that his entire estate will pass to his closest heirs.  The estate will pass first to the person’s parents.  If the person’s parents have already died, then the estate will pass next to siblings.  In most cases, either parents or siblings will be alive and will inherit.  But if no living parents or siblings exist, Utah’s intestate succession laws provide a list of those relative next in line to inherit.  If no living relatives exist at all (a very rare circumstance), then the estate is received by the State of Utah for the benefit of the state school fund.  In no case will the person’s intestate estate go to a non-relative.

If a person wants property to be given to anyone other than those relatives designated as receiving heirs under the intestate succession statutes, then creating a last will and testament is absolutely necessary to make those bequests.  If a person is comfortable with the rules of inheritance set up by Utah’s intestate succession laws, it may be tempting to not create a will.  But the question of who will inherit is only one question to consider in deciding whether to create a will and trust.

If you own real estate (e.g., a home, condominium, or land), or if your estate has other assets valued at more than $100,000, then a probate action in the Utah courts will be required to distribute or transfer those assets.  The cost of filing a probate action includes at a minimum (as of 2013) a $360 filing fee.  Add in attorney fees, and the cost of probate can easily exceed the cost of creating a will and trust that will likely avoid the probate process in court entirely.

If you have not created a will, there may be disputes over who should be designated as your personal representative.  While Utah intestate succession law determines who is to receive your estate, it is the personal representative’s responsibility to determine how to accomplish that task.  Should the estate be liquidated in its entirety and distributed as cash?  Are there certain personal possessions that you would like specific individuals to receive?  These questions are best answered by you.  Without a will, it is the probate court that makes these decisions.  Decisions made by a judge regarding your estate will almost never be exactly what you would have wanted.

If you are comfortable leaving your estate to those individuals designated as heirs under Utah intestate succession laws, if you have no preference as to how your estate is actually distributed, if you have no minor children who should have a guardian designated, and if you are not concerned with creating the need for a probate action following your death, then you may not need a will or other estate planning tools.  But if you are concerned about any of these issues, then you should speak with an estate planning attorney in Utah.