Probate in Utah

park_benchThe death of a family member can be an emotionally exhausting and tumultuous time. For those who are called on in this difficult time to oversee the distribution of the estate, the process can be overwhelming. Without clear direction, the assets of the estate may be improperly accounted for, expenses may be overlooked, and there may be confusion or disputes over which beneficiaries are entitled to specific assets. When a loved one passes away with just a will, or no estate plan at all, their families have to put the estate through a process called probate.

Probate Attorney in Salt Lake City

Probate is the court-managed proceeding where assets are retitled and distributed according to the will or the law of intestacy. We are often asked to help families go through this process and no two probates are ever the same. The one thing that they do have in common is having to locate the will and filing the documents with the probate court.  Once a will has been accepted by the probate court an administrator is appointed. After an administrator is appointed the heirs will be able to review the will and make any appropriate challenges or contests.

Probate in South Jordan, Draper, and Salt Lake City

The administrator will then gather the estates assets to pay debts and taxes owed by the estate. After those obligations have been paid the administrator will then be able to distribute the assets in accordance with the will or the states intestacy laws. Some assets will avoid probate by operation of law and will pass directly to the named beneficiary. The most common example of these assets are life insurance policies and retirement accounts.  While other assets that are held in joint tenancy will pass directly to the other joint tenant. One important thing to remember is that all of these assets are still counted as part of the estate for purposes of calculating what is owed for estate taxes. Terms that you will need to understand during the probate process are:

  1. Personal representative is the term used to refer to either an independent executor or a dependent administrator.
  2. Informal personal representative is the legal representative of an estate.  They are the person appointed by the Court to collect all of the Decedent’s assets, resolve proper debts and distribute the remaining assets according to the Decedent’s last will and testament.  With a few exceptions, an informal personal representative acts independently of the probate court’s control.  Even these independent representatives must apply for the position and be approved by the court but they are required to prepare an inventory.
  3. Independent administrator is similar to an independent executor, in that they administer the estate free of court supervision.  An independent administrator may be appointed when all of the executors named in the will are either deceased, not qualified, or decline to serve.  The court may also appoint an independent administrator when the will does not provide for an independent administration or when the Decedent died without a will, and all of the heirs agree on having an independent administration.
  4. Probate Estate is all of the Decedent’s assets that are subject to his or her last will and testament.
  5. Non-Probate Estate is all of the Decedent’s assets that pass by written contract, assuming the decedent named a beneficiary to the persons designated.  Bank accounts, investment accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts are common non-probate assets.  When properly executed, the written contracts for these accounts allow them to pass to the persons designated by the Decedent, without regard to a will.
  6. Beneficiaries are those persons who are entitled to receive the Decedent’s estate under the Decedent’s last will and testament.
  7. Heirs are those persons who are entitled to receive the Decedent’s estate under the laws of intestacy which is the law that applies in the absence of a will.


Having to account for all of this takes an enormous amount of time and can be frustrating. As your attorney we can help you navigate the process and settle the estate as quickly and economically as possible. If a loved one has recently passed away Garner Law offers knowledgeable and experienced counsel to you and your family. We will work with you to determine the accurate value of the estate, resolve any outstanding debts and expenses, and distribute the estate to the proper beneficiaries. Additionally, we can guide you through the process of preparing your own estate plan so that your family will not be burdened with extra difficulties when the time comes.