Death Certificates in Utah Probate Cases

Stephen Howard — Stone River Law

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Death Certificates in Utah Probate Cases

Am I required to file a death certificate in a Utah probate case?

You may encounter information online regarding the Utah probate process that suggests that a death certificate is always required in a Utah probate case. While it is true that a death certificate is by far the most common method of proving death in a probate case, Utah Code 75-1-107 does allow for alternative methods of proof.

Other Records or Reports

Records from another governmental agency (whether domestic or foreign) can be used to establish the fact of death in a probate case. The U.S. State Department can issue a “Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Non-Citizen National Abroad” as evidence of a death that has occurred outside the U.S. Documents or records issued by foreign governements can also serve as prima facie evidence of a person’s death. Such records can also serve as prima facie evidence of other facts including the dates, places, and circumstances disclosed in the report or record.

Clear and Convincing Evidence

While a death certificate or other records or reports can be the clearest evidence of death, death can also be proven for probate purposes by other evidence that establishes the fact of death to the standard of “clear and convincing evidence.” Such evidence can include circumstantial evidence.

Unexplained Absence

In cases where there is no documentary record of the death and the evidence of death does not meet the “clear and convincing” standard, death can be presumed to have occurred when a person is absent for a continuous period of five years. If the person has not been heard from, and if the person’s absence cannot be satisfactorily explained after a reasonably diligent inquiry or search, the person will be presumed to have died at the end of the five-year period. If evidence indicates that the death occurred earlier, the presumed date of death may be adjusted accordingly.

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