Do I need a will in Utah if I have children but am not married?

Stephen Howard — Stone River Law

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Do I need a will in Utah if I have children but am not married?

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A person who has minor children has important reasons to make a last will and testament, whether or not the person is married. A person who dies without a will is considered to have died intestate. Utah’s intestate succession laws provide that upon the death of a person who is not married but has children, the person’s estate will pass to his “descendants” – typically, his children. (It is important to understand if parents were not married, the children will not inherit from their father under intestate succession laws unless paternity has been established under the Utah Uniform Parentage Act.) Making a will provides an opportunity for the decedent to nominate a person to act as guardian and conservator for his children if there is no surviving parent.  A will also provides an opportunity to provide guidance and rules on how the estate should be used.  Contact Utah estate planning attorney Stephen Howard today to learn how a will and other estate planning tools may benefit you and your children.

Naming a guardian and conservator for minor children is important. But there are other important reasons to write a will or create a living trust, regardless of whether your children are minors or adults.

If you have minor children and die without leaving a will, then a Utah probate court will determine who will act as guardian and conservator for your children.  The guardian/conservator will be responsible for managing the minor child’s estate. Upon reaching the age of 18, a child will receive whatever is left of his estate – with no restrictions. Either a living trust (established during your lifetime) or a testamentary trust (created through your will) can be used to provide guidelines and rules for how a child can use his inheritance, even beyond the age of 18.

Whether your children are minors or adults, their needs may not be equal.  Utah’s intestate succession laws provide that each child inherits an equal share of the parent’s estate.  If your children’s needs are equal, then equal shares may be appropriate.  But if you have a child with special needs or unusual circumstances, you may want to make special provisions to ensure that their needs are taken care of.

If you are divorced, you may also want to consider whether your ex-spouse is the appropriate person to have control over the estate you are leaving to your minor children. If your ex-spouse survives you, the probate court will not normally appoint a guardian.  Instead, your ex-spouse will likely control how your estate will be used.  In many cases, this may work well.  In other cases, a person may want to use a living trust or a testamentary trust to name a trustee and establish guidelines for how the children may use their inheritance.

Regardless of your marital of family status, you may want to consider using a trust in addition to a will if your estate will be valued at more than $100,000 or if you own real estate (e.g. a home, condominium, or land).  A living trust can provide added flexibility to your estate plan, and can be an important step in avoiding the probate process.

Contacting a Utah Estate Planning Attorney in Salt Lake City

Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation with Utah estate planning attorney Stephen Howard, and learn more about wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools.