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The Basics of Probate

Hello, this is Randa Vieira, and I want to explain some of the basics of the probate process in Utah.


Probate is the process of winding up the affairs of someone who has died (the decedent). It is required when the decedent’s estate, or the collection of their property, includes any real property (land, a house, mineral rights, etc.), or if the estate has assets (other than land, and not including cars) whose net worth is more than $100,000.

There are two forms of probate cases, informal and formal. In informal probate, all interested parties, including descendants and heirs, agree on who the personal representative of the estate should be. It is therefore possible to ask the court to appoint the personal representative without a hearing. On the other hand, in formal probate proceedings, the interested parties do not agree on who the personal representative should be or how the estate should be distributed. The court then becomes the decision maker and a hearing is required.

Whether formal or informal, a probate case will include:

  • Appointing a personal representative

  • Filing the decedent’s will (if they left one) with the local court

  • Determining whether or not the will is valid

  • Identifying and appraising the decedent’s estate

  • Contacting heirs and creditors

  • Making sure all debts are paid

  • Distributing the remainder of the property

Informal probate cases may not be filed with the court until five days (or 120 hours to be precise) after the decedent has passed. Additionally, all probate cases must be filed within three years of the decedent’s death. If it has been more than three years, a determination of heirs should be obtained in order to administer the decedent’s estate, but that is information for another post.


Once we have determined whether the case is formal or informal, we will start the necessary court process. This includes petitioning the court for your desired outcomes about the will and to appoint a personal representative, obtaining waivers of notice from interested parties, ensuring the personal representative accepts their appointment, submitting the official death certificate, and obtaining letters of administration giving the personal representative the authority to distribute the estate.

Whether formal or informal, we can answer all of your probate questions and see your case through from beginning to end. Give us a call today.