Estate Planning for an Estranged Child

Family relationships aren’t always straightforward, and an estranged child can add significant complications to the estate planning process. While emotions are often high, it’s crucial to understand how Utah law safeguards your rights and lets you create an estate plan that reflects your specific wishes.

Utah Inheritance Rights and Disinheritance

Unlike some states, Utah does not have “forced heirship” laws. This means that you have substantial freedom in determining who inherits your assets. However, it’s important to be aware of the following:

Intestate Succession

If you pass away without a valid will in Salt Lake City, your assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestate succession laws. This default plan lays out a specific hierarchy of inheritance:

Spouse’s Elective Share

Utah Code §75-2-201 provides surviving spouses with the right to claim an elective share of the deceased spouse’s estate, even if intentionally excluded from the will. This elective share usually amounts to one-third of the decedent’s augmented estate. The augmented estate includes not only probate assets but potentially certain non-probate transfers as well. The elective share is designed to protect a surviving spouse from being completely disinherited. However, it can be waived with a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

Pretermitted Child

Utah law aims to protect children from being unintentionally omitted from their parent’s will. Under Utah Code §75-2-302, a child born or adopted after the creation of a will, or mistakenly believed to be deceased by the parent, may still be entitled to inherit a share of the estate.

A Guide to Protecting Your Legacy

If you are a Salt Lake City resident facing this situation, it’s essential to understand the options available to protect your assets and align your legacy with your wishes. Here are the key steps to navigate this process:

Step 1: Reflect on Your Objectives. Initiating the estate planning process begins with introspection. Identifying your specific goals regarding your estranged child is paramount. Whether your aim is reconciliation, financial provision, or expressing your final wishes, having a clear set of objectives will serve as the cornerstone of your estate planning efforts.

Step 2: Gather Necessary Information. This step involves compiling a comprehensive inventory of your assets, including but not limited to real estate, investments, personal property, and digital assets.

Step 3: Consult with an Estate Planning Attorney in Salt Lake City. Engaging with an experienced Utah estate planning lawyer from the Law Office of Chris W. Chong is crucial. This step ensures you navigate Utah’s legal framework effectively. Your attorney in Salt Lake City will provide invaluable insights into state laws, helping to tailor your estate plan to meet both your personal wishes and legal requirements.

Step 4: Decide on Estate Planning Tools. Choosing the right tools—whether a will, a trust, or both—is essential for addressing your specific needs. This step also includes considering powers of attorney and healthcare directives to comprehensively address your estate planning needs.

Step 5: Draft and Review Your Estate Plan. With the guidance of your Salt Lake City estate planning lawyer, your estate plan will take form through carefully drafted documents. This crucial step demands meticulous review to ensure that every detail aligns with your intentions, particularly those provisions concerning your estranged child.

Step 6: Include a Personal Letter (Optional). Although not legally required, a personal letter explaining your estate planning decisions can offer clarity and potentially mitigate future familial discord. It explains your thoughts and reasons behind your decisions regarding your estranged child.

Step 7: Execute the Documents. This step involves formally finalizing your estate plan through legal execution, which may require witnessing and/or notarization as dictated by Utah law. Ensuring that all documents are correctly executed is fundamental to their validity and enforceability.

Step 8: Safe Storage and Accessibility. Securely storing your estate planning documents and ensuring that key individuals, such as your executor or trustee, are aware of their location and access methods, safeguards your plan’s implementation.

Step 9: Communicate Your Plan. Thoughtfully consider which family members should be informed about the existence and storage details of your estate plan. The decision to disclose specific provisions, especially those concerning an estranged child, should be made with care, weighing the benefits of transparency against potential emotional impacts.

Step 10: Regular Updates. Life’s inevitable changes necessitate regular reviews and updates to your estate plan. This ensures that your plan accurately reflects your current circumstances and wishes, adapting to new developments in your life or family structure.

Amidst Estrangement: Why You Need a Utah Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning with an estranged child is emotionally complex and legally nuanced. Seeking professional guidance from an experienced Utah estate planning attorney is the best way to protect your assets, safeguard your legacy, and navigate the complexities of family estrangement. If you’re seeking advice, contact the Law Office of Chris W. Chong for a consultation. We offer compassionate and knowledgeable legal services in all aspects of Utah estate planning.

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