Utah probate attorneys at Weekes Law understand that the loss of a love one is a very difficult time emotionally. We can help you deal with the legal issues surrounding this difficult time to help you reduce the stress and complexity.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process to validate a will and transfer assets after death. Probate is generally necessary following death, unless the descendent does not own any assets titled in his or her name. Essentially probate is litigation to re-title property of the death of the owner of the property. In some cases probate can be a very simple and low-cost process. In other cases it can be highly contentious and extremely expensive. Because it is unknown what the process may be at the time of death, it is advisable to avoid probate when possible with estate planning measures.
Distributing Assets without Probate
When a person passes away, assets titled in their name (called the estate) will be distributed through a legal process called probate. Probate is essentially litigation to retile the assets. During the probate process, a person applies to the court to be appointed as the estate administrator, the decedent’s will (if any) will be verified and various actions will be taken to distribute the estate according to the deceased’s final wishes. When there is no will, the court will allocate the estate according to intestacy laws. Because probate can be costly, takes substantial time to transfer the assets and is public, many people wish to avoid probate. Probate can be avoided by holding property in an alternative ownership method. Such methods are:
- By Contract – a person may hold property or have a property interest by contract as opposed to individual ownership. The following are contractual ownership methods that avoid probate:
- Utah Living Trust – a living trust is a legal arrangement where a person called a trustee holds title and control over trust property and holds the property on behalf of other individuals called beneficiaries. When the trustee passes away or becomes incompetent, the property is transferred to a successor trustee or to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust agreement.
- Beneficiary Designations – naming a person to inherit the property of an individual who retains control until their death. Examples of beneficiary designations include bank accounts, insurance, retirement accounts, stocks, and bonds.
- Joint Tenancy – when property ownership is shared with another person (common for spouses), the property is automatically transferred to the surviving owner. Because the property will be owned individually by the surviving owner, joint tenancy is only a method to delay probate. One of the other ownership methods must be used by the surviving owner to avoid probate at their demise.
- Lifetime Gifts – gifts given during lifetime will avoid probate, but are subject to gift tax. To determine if lifetime gifts is a viable probate avoidance strategy, contact an experienced gift tax attorney with Weekes Law.
Probate Lawyer in Utah
Effective estate planning ensures that your final wishes are carried out when the time comes. It can also facilitate the transfer of property to your heirs and beneficiaries in a controlled way. Weekes Law represents clients throughout Utah, Salt Lake, Summit, and Wasatch counties in estate matters. Our probate lawyers are intimately familiar with estate and probate laws, and can give you advice and guidance regarding the distribution of your property.
Leading Top Firms in Utah
Probate can be a costly and time consuming. The estate planning professionals at Dow Weekes can help you navigate this difficult process and help you save time and money.