In Utah, when a loved one passes away, his or her estate often goes through a court-managed process called probate or estate administration where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed.  If your loved-one owned his or her assets through a well drafted and properly funded living trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration is necessary, though the successor trustee needs to administer the distribution of the deceased’s assets.  The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules and schedule of the probate court. See our Utah Probate Guide.

Every Utah probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:

  • Filing of a petition with the proper probate court.
  • Notice to heirs under the Will or to statutory heirs (if no Will exists).
  • Petition to appoint a Personal Representative (in the case of a Will) or Administrator for the estate. The word “Personal Representative” is the same person as an “Executor”.
  • Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by the Personal Representative/Administrator.
  • Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors.
  • Sale of estate assets. 
  • Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
  • Final distribution of assets to heirs.


What happens if someone objects to the Will in Utah?

An objection to a Will, also known as a “Will contest” is a fairly common occurrence during the probate proceedings and can be incredibly costly to litigate.  Fortunately, in Salt Lake County, objections during the preliminary probate process are referred to mandatory mediation.  Mediation has a high success rate in resolving disputes which also saves money for the estate and ultimately the beneficiaries.  Mediation is non-binding up until the point where a settlement agreement is signed by the parties.  A settlement agreement is binding and enforceable.

In order to contest a Will, one has to have legal “standing” to raise objections.  This usually occurs when, for example children are to receive disproportionate shares under the Will, or when distribution schemes change from a prior Will to a later Will.  In addition to disputes over the tangible distributions, Will contests can be a quarrel over the person designated to serve as Executor.  A more detailed guide to probate in Utah is located on our website here.

In Utah, does probate administer all property of the deceased?

Probate is primarily a process through which title is transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries. 

Certain types of assets are what is called “non-probate assets” do not go through probate.  These include:

    Property in which you own title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship”.  Such property passes to the co-owners by operation of law and do not go through probate.Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated beneficiaries.Life insurance policies.Bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) designations or “in trust for” designations.Property owned by a living trust.  Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without having to go through probate.

Do I get paid for serving as an Personal Representative?

Personal Representatives are reimbursed for all legitimate out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the deceased estate.  In addition, you may be entitled to statutory fees, which vary from location to location and on the size of the probate estate.  The Personal Representative has to fulfill his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of the estate with the highest degree of integrity and can be held liable for mismanagement of estate assets in his or her care.  Due to the fact that a Personal Representative owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries, we advise that the Personal Representative retain an attorney and an accountant to advise and assist him with his or her duties.  Kathie Brown Roberts P.C. routinely assists Personal Representatives in the administration of probate estates.

How much does probate cost in Utah?  How long does it take?

In 2021, the filing fee for both an informal and formal probate in District Court statewide is $375.00.  Attorney fees depend on the duration of probate and complexity of the estate, the existence of a Will and the location of real property owned by the estate. In Utah, a Petitioner who loans money to the estate to begin the probate process may be paid back from the estate as a priority creditor.

Will contests or disputes with alleged creditors over the debts of the estate can also add significant cost and delay.  Common expenses of an estate include Personal Representative fees, attorneys fees, accounting fees, court fees, appraisal costs, and surety bonds.  These typically add up to 2% to 7% of the total estate value. Most estates are settled though probate in about 9 to 18 months, assuming there is no litigation involved.