houses-691586_1280In this series, we will discuss what happens if you die without a Will in Utah, what happens to different types of property, how property is distributed, and what happens to family members. This introduction discusses the ways that property is classified at death and why the rules that are in place for some property will matter to your estate.

The state of dying without a Will is called intestacy. Upon death, there are generally three ways that property is disposed of:

By contract – These items are handled outside of probate and are governed by contracts entered into before death, including trusts, some bank accounts, insurance policies, and property owned jointly with another person

By Will – These items are handled as part of the probate process and, since they are governed by a Last Will and Testament, they are called part of the “Testamentary Estate,” or “Testate Estate.”

Through intestacy – Everything that has not been disposed of by contract or by Will falls under the “Intestate Estate” and is governed by the inheritance rules of the probate code.

Many of the default probate rules on distribution are what most people would choose to happen to their property after death. For example, most people would prefer that their property first go to their spouse, then to their children. However, few people—if any—would prefer to handle their entire estate according to the default rules. Therefore, it is important that people put their most important wishes in a Will, then the default rules can fill in any gaps that the Will may omit due to a change in circumstances.