Flagstaff, AZ asked in Estate Planning and Elder Law for Utah

Q: Can the executor of a Utah estate be the sole beneficiary also (disinheriting children)?

Mother refused to make will. Her sister, who she very much disliked, decided Mom was mentally incompetent and had herself named Legal Guardian. Mom is then sent into assisted living and quickly passes away. Now her sister is saying the estate is completely bankrupt, mom made a will naming sister executor and sole beneficiary, sister says she will sell mom's home (which has a reverse mortgage) and keep any remaining funds. Sister is asking kids to pay funeral expenses.

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

A: The answer to your questions is, "yes" an executor can be the only named beneficiary of an estate. It happens all the time when there is only one child remaining or there are two children and one of them has become estranged.

You stated that your aunt, whom your mom disliked, became your mom's legal guardian. She must have done this through the Court system. If this is in fact what happened, rather than just getting a power of attorney signed, all of her children would have had to be notified as part of the process. If that wasn't done correctly, then maybe there is a question as to her status of guardian and in turn her status as executor if she made a will for your mom.

As far as administration of the estate goes, the priority for administration if there is not enough money to satisify all creditors are:

(1) If the applicable assets of the estate are insufficient to pay all claims in full, the personal representative shall make payment in the following order:

(a) reasonable funeral expenses;

(b) costs and expenses of administration;

(c) debts and taxes with preference under federal law;

(d) reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last illness of the decedent, including compensation of persons attending the decedent, and medical assistance if Section 26-19-405 applies;

(e) debts and taxes with preference under other laws of this state; and

(f) all other claims.

(2) No preference shall be given in the payment of any claim over any other claim of the same class, and a claim due and payable shall not be entitled to a preference over claims not due.

As you can see reasonable funeral expenses are the first on the list. Any money flowing from the estate should first go to the funeral expenses as long as it isn't an exempt.

In addition, there are no filial support laws in Utah. No child is legally responsible for the debts of their parents by virtue of their relationship alone. Even if there isn't enough money to pay for the funeral, you don't have any legal obligation to do so.

I hope this helps.

Wes

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