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What Does Testate or Intestate Mean?

When a loved one passes away, it is very important to know whether this person died with or without will. It is in this context that the words “testate” and “intestate” appear, and it is what we will be discussing today.

When someone dies without a will, we say that this person died intestate. Conversely, when someone dies leaving a will, we say that he or she died testate. As you can see, two letters can make a big difference for your or a loved one’s estate after death.

Intestate Succession

Under Utah laws, when someone passes away without a will or intestate, the decedent’s estate will be distributed to his or her heirs according to what is called “intestate succession”. Intestate succession is the process that details how the decedent’s estate is to be divided and distributed to all heirs based on the date of death. However, intestate succession does not include:

Property previously transferred to a living trust or owned in joint tenancy,

Life insurance,

Proceeds, or

Retirement accounts, to name a few.

Although Utah law provides for those dying without a will and their heirs, a simple way to make sure your personal wishes are taken care of after your death is by writing a will.

Writing a Will

Writing a last will and testament starts by thinking about those you will leave behind; those who you wish to care for and how you would like to accomplish that, and those who will serve as the executor of your estate. A well drafted will should include specific arrangements that address your needs and meet your goals. There are many benefits to preparing a will, such as:

  • Tax minimization to ensure your heirs, devisees or beneficiaries make the most out of your estate

  • Preventing others from legally challenging your estate

  • Deciding who will take care of minor children, pets, digital assets, and funeral arrangements

  • Making gifts and donations that will allow your legacy to live on

A will is not written in stone and can be changed or amended at any time before you die (which is when it goes into effect). If you would like to learn more about how to plan your estate during your lifetime, stay tuned for our next blog posts on estate planning and trusts.

Although many web-based legal document services offer an inexpensive way to obtain a will, at SKV we believe the work and expertise of an attorney cannot be replaced by online one-size-fits-all service providers. We are committed to providing excellent service with affordable rates. If you are thinking about writing a will or need guidance preparing one, call me at (801) 608-4706 today or send an email to to set up a free initial consultation.


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