Setting up a trust and funding it by transferring your assets and accounts to it protects your wealth and provides for its management to benefit your children when you are gone. You may need to update your trust regularly and when major purchases or life events make it necessary.
But what if an unexpected accident or illness prevents you from making the changes? What happens to your assets that are not in your trust?
If you do not have a will, then Utah law divides your estate — everything that is not in the trust — among your beneficiaries according to intestate succession law. Spouses usually receive the largest portion of the assets, then children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings and so on.
Determining who receives assets through intestate succession happens through the probate court. In the case of smaller estates, a small estate affidavit may allow an estate representative to avoid probate if the estate meets the requirements.
To avoid intestate succession, many people choose to have a will that directs the distribution of any assets that are not in the trust. These could be assets that you do not want to put in the trust because wish to leave them directly to beneficiaries. Utah law also allows you to make testamentary additions to your trust. That is, in your will, you can name the trust as the beneficiary of your estate. Once the executor / personal representative of your estate distributes the assets to the trust, they become the responsibility of the trustee to manage as you have instructed.
Assets in trust do not go through probate and are available to your trustees immediately. However, assets you leave to the trust in your will go through probate, so they may not be available until a few months after your death.
By having both a will and a trust, your estate plan may be more comprehensive, and the unexpected will not catch you off guard.