Asked in Estate Planning, Tax Law and Probate for Utah

Q: I cannot find my mother's will. I have a brother. He told me to handle things. Will we still go through probate?

She still owes on her house. We are going to pay it off. What about other bills? I was told to start sending the death certificate to bill collectors. She was taken to the hospital from work where she passed. Are they responsible for any of the bills? She was working for the local 99 union. She owed taxes to the feds and had an auto payment set up. Now that she is passed do I have to continue to pay it?

2 Lawyer Answers
William Tyler Melling
William Tyler Melling
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Cedar City, UT
  • Licensed in Utah

A: I am sorry for your loss. Usually, if the estate has any real estate that was in her name and not held in a Trust, a probate will be required to transfer the home to the names of her heirs or to give you authority to sell her home. However, if you find that the back taxes owed, medical debts, and other liabilities exceed her net worth, then it may not be worth the cost and time of going through the probate process, in which case you need not do anything. It may be worth consulting a probate attorney to weigh your options and decide which path is the best option for you. Best of luck to you.

Wesley Winsor
Wesley Winsor
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Saint George, UT
  • Licensed in Utah

A: I am sorry to hear about the passing of your mother. This can be a difficult time for you especially if you are having to deal with creditors at the same time.

In Utah, if a person dies without a will or dies with a will and there is real estate owned (even if there is a mortgage on it) in only the decedent's name than the estate will need to go through probate in order to transfer assets. There really is no other way around it.

Some things you should know, Utah does no have any fillial support laws (children are not liable to their parents' creditors). You do not have to reach out of your pocket to pay the hospital, feds, or anyone else. All payments to creditors should come out of the estate. Many times, an heir will front some of the fees needed to get the probate going and then reiumburse themselves when assets are sold or accessible, but the Estate should pay for it.

In probate there is a priority of distribution, first the costs of the administration are paid, this includes attorney's fees, court fees etc. Then there is the cost of burial, then creditors and if there is anything else, then it goes to the heirs.

Probate can be a difficult process to navigate by yourself and I suggest getting an attorney. It will reduce the headache and time spent trying to figure it out yourself. With an attorney you will probably get to the point of distribution within a month, w/out one who knows.

I hope this helps.

Wes Winsor

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