Estate planning is an important life step, especially once you have children or gain assets, as it helps give your loved ones clarity about your wishes after your death. An estate plan can direct the care of your children, ensure your spouse is comfortable, and leave a legacy to a charity or institution that is important to you. Making a will, an important part of an estate plan, helps with this process.
What Happens Without a Will?
Failure to leave behind a valid will means that your property will be handled with a process known as intestate succession. Each state has laws that govern the exact nuances of intestate succession, but the general goal is to hand your assets to those who were most likely closest to you during your life.
The first level of intestate succession includes your spouse and children. In Utah, there is a spousal elective share that your spouse is entitled to receive regardless of what is stated in your will. This is to protect spouses who married late in life from a will written and not updated years prior. This elective share can be waived, but it is wiser to update your estate plan to account for major life changes such as a marriage.
If you do not have a surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, then the law looks to parents and siblings still living as your likely heirs. It then follows a schema of increasingly-distant relatives until a living relative is found to inherit your estate. If no living relative can be located, your assets are absorbed by the state.
Advantages to Estate Planning
If your estate is small or you’re certain you want your assets to pass by intestate succession, it still makes sense to make an estate plan. As part of the plan, you also set who you want to administer your estate and have the opportunity to leave gifts to charity. Part of the process also involves setting up end-of-life care. You’ll indicate who you want making those care decisions and provide them guidance on your personal preferences. It is also good to start thinking about estate planning and talking to a lawyer. Even if your assets are small, you have no spouse or children, and you’re just beginning in life, you can gain insight to help you plan for the future.
At Dunn Law Firm, we strive to make sure your estate plan is comprehensive and includes all the details necessary to protect your assets and distribute them to your family. Estate planning is important for small business owners, parents of children, new grandparents, those who have earned or inherited assets, and many others. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.