A Homeowner’s Guide to the Probate Process in Utah

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So, you’ve not quite inherited a property and are now subjected to the joys of Salt Lake’s probate process. It may feel like an endless pile of paperwork, but that’s only because it is. The American Bar Association places the average probate process at six to nine months overall. In rare cases, it can as long as two years—or roughly about as long as it takes a sane person to read Dickens’ probate saga Bleak House.

The Typical Probate Process

In Utah, the entire probate experience can take as little as four months at best. Here’s a general look at what you’ll have to do during the probate process:

  • Hire An Attorney: Estate distribution can be one of the frustrating and convoluted experiences available on the planet. Talk with a few probate attorneys and then hire one.
  • File Your Probate Case: Submit a petition to the court to get the probate process started. You’ll need to file a valid and notarized will in addition to your application which indicates that you’re the legal executor of the estate. The court will then schedule a hearing to approve your petition. If approved, the court will open the probate case.
  • Post Notice: As required by most courts, you’ll need to mail a notice that the estate is in probate to all creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs. You might even need to publish a notice in the newspaper, depending on your state.
  • Determine Assets and Pay Debts: You’ll also need to compile all of the estate’s assets and determine their value. Then you’ll need to analyze and pay off any debt.
  • Distribute Remaining Assets: Once you’ve paid off all debts/creditors you can distribute remaining assets to the appropriate beneficiaries.

So, within that range of four months to two years, just how long will it take to do all of the above? The answer depends on the following…

Size & Complexity of Estate

This is the “no-duh” section of the article. If the estate is relatively small, with few assets and beneficiaries, the probate process will probably be fairly quick. However, with an estate that is large or complex—ie. one with a high value of assets or multiple beneficiaries—then you can expect the process to take on Bleak House-ian propertions.

Due Dates

Probate laws will vary from state to state, but many require that it be settled within a certain period of time (often one year). In Utah, an infromal probate can’t be filed until five days have passed since the decedent’s death but before three years have passed from that same date. Any longer and relevant parties have to go through a probate attorney to pursue other avenues for making a determination of heirs. Missing that three-year deadline can add significant expense and delay.

Location of Estate

If the deceased was a resident of Utah at the time of their death or they owned property in the state, then you can file your probate case in the district court of the county where the deceased lived at the time of their death. As stated, above, Utah can be comparatively fast once the probate has filed provided that all other circumstances are ideal.

Presence or Lack of a Valid Will

If the deceased left a will, there’s a good chance they named personal representative or executor that will distribute the estate based on the expressed desires of the decedent in their will. This vastly simplifies the probate process. If the will hasn’t been notarized or is determined to be invalid for some other reason, then the courts will assign a personal representative or executor to help with the process.

Creditors and Heirs

Let everyone know that you’re opening a probate case, especially creditors and possible heirs. You might even want to send paper notices via mail. As for debt and taxes, you’ll need to use the estate to pay them both off. This may require you liquidating property associated with the estate. In that instance, you may want to look into a probate agent.

Probate Agents

Not every real estate is experienced in probate proceedings. In fact, relatively few are. If you want to know which camp your prospective probate agents falls into, ask them these two questions:

  • How Many Probate Transactions Have You Done?
  • How Do Probate Sales and Traditional Sales Differ?

It’s easy to lie about the first question, but much more difficult to fake an answer to the second. If your potential real estate agent can’t explain the difference between the probate sales process and the traditional sales process, then you need to plug your ears and run away.

Or, if you’ll pardon some shameless self-promotion, you can just reach out to us.

Wasatch Cash and Probate Process

Believe it or not, you can sell the property during the probate process. And believe or not again, we did not write this article simply to tell you to find a probate attorney or real estate agent licensed in the state of Utah (though you really, really should). Wasatch Cash helps homeowners in almost every situation—including probate—navigate difficult circumstances and sell their home. If you’re the rightful owner and you’d like to sell, give us a call and we’ll make you a fair cash offer as long as there’s a valid will that establishes your ownership. Just fill out the form or click-to-call and (despite the fact that we are not probate attorneys) we’ll help get you out of probate as soon as possible—we can close in as little as 72 hours if needed.

Lastly, check out the Utah Court’s how-to for more detail on what to do during the probate process.

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