These basic FAQS (frequently asked questions) might help you understand Utah wills:

What is estate planning?
Planning for the preservation and transfer of a person’s property after their death is called “estate planning.” A good estate plan includes a Will, powers of attorney, a Living Will (“Utah Advance Health Care Directive”), and usually a Trust.

What is a will?
A will is a written document which usually:
•  appoints someone to wrap up you affairs (called a Personal Representative in Utah,
also called an executor or administrator)
•  designates a guardian for your minor children or incapacitated adult children
•  describes the inheritances of your chosen heirs

Do I need a will?
No. If you die without a will, the Utah legislature has provided one for you in the Utah probate statutes.  (Utah Code section 75-2-101 to 103) This law will be followed even if you would have chosen differently.

Does all of my property go as I direct in may will?
Not usually. Your instructions in your last will do not apply to property which passes to others by joint ownership, by contract, by beneficiary designation or in trust. Most married Utahns own real estate in joint tenancy, and the property will pass to their spouse (as the surviving joint tenant) when they die. The same rule applies to all jointly owned stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and other property. Solely owned bank accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, and any other property which has P.O.D. (payable on death) designations will pass upon your death to the person(s) you designate. Property in trust will pass as the trust directs. Your will does not apply to these properties.

Does my last will need to be probated?
Yes. See FAQs about Utah probate

Can my children contest my will?
Anyone with an interest in your affairs can contest a will, but few wills are declared invalid.

Can I disinherit anyone who contests my will?
No. Many people write penalty clauses in their wills disinheriting anyone who contests the will. In Utah, these clauses are unenforceable “if probable cause exists” to challenge the will. (Utah Code section 75-2-515) In other words, only those who file frivolous challenges can be disinherited by this language.

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