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Last Modified: November 10, 2021


A “decedent” is simply defined in layman’s terms as “a deceased person.” “Decedent” is defined almost as simply in Utah as “a deceased natural person” in 59-11-102 and somewhat less simply as “a human body or parts of the human body from the condition of which it reasonably may be concluded that death occurred” in 26-2-2. While most people do not typically refer to a deceased individual as a “decedent” in conventional speech, the term is commonly used in (especially probate) law.

Example Sentence

The executor of a decedent’s estate is responsible for the management of his affairs—settling debts, paying taxes, dispensing possessions to family members, and canceling services—following his death.

Case Study

Raymond is the claimant in a personal injury case. Before a settlement (or verdict) is reached, he perishes from his injuries. Because Raymond’s survivors are now burdened with both the costs of his medical treatment and the costs of a funeral, they carry on the claim in the name of the decedent. When compensation is awarded, it is divided among those relatives who were party to the claim.

Other Important Information

Property not provided for in a decedent’s will is automatically disposed of according to the laws of intestate succession.

In addition to a legal succession for the allotment of a decedent’s belongings, there is a legally established order dictating who may “control the disposition of a deceased person”:  an official designee; a “written instrument” which, if notarized, holds the same way as a will; an Army service member (in a federal Record of Emergency Data form); the decedent’s spouse; a nominee; children; parents; siblings; and other relatives according to the succession of kinship.

Debts owed to a decedent must still be paid to her estate (after at least 30 days have elapsed from the time of death).

Claims against the decedent are not dismissed upon the death of the decedent, but may be barred if they are not brought against the estate within a year of the death or  “within the time provided by Subsection 75-3-801(2) for creditors who are given actual notice.”

Image courtesy of florisluton. The image is in the public domain.