Intestate (meaning and examples)
Meaning of intestate
Intestate (pronounced in-TESS-tate) means having died without leaving a will or a trust that will instruct how your possessions will be divided among your heirs after you die.
It is an adjective that can be used to describe a person:
Marilyn died intestate, leaving no will that would say how her property would be dealt with after her death.
or it can describe things:
Marilyn's possessions are intestate, since she did not have a will at the time of her death.
The noun form of intestate is intestacy.
Examples of intestacy
The two most common scenarios where a person will have died intestate are:
- they did not have a will or trust
- the will or trust turns out to be invalid
The person who has written a will for himself/herself is called a testator. For a will to be valid:
- The testator must make it clear that the document is his/her will and that he/she has written it; this is usually called "publication" of the will, and it is typically done by titling the document "last will and testament"
- The testator must declare that all previous wills and codicils (amendments to a will) are hereby revoked. Otherwise, the newer will revokes previous wills and codicils only where they are inconsistent with each other. (If the newer will is completely inconsistent with the previous will and/or codicils, then the older wills/codicils are rendered revoked by implication)
- The testator must affirm that he/she has the ability to dispose of his property with his/her free will.
- The testator must sign and date the will, typically witnessed by two people who are not beneficiaries. Anything written after the testator's signature will be rendered invalid.
- The will must be written with the assistance of an attorney if the testator is under 18 years old.
Consequences of intestacy
If a person or estate is intestate, then the disposition of that person's or estate's possessions are handled by probate law. A court proceeding will determine how the intestate possessions will be divided among heirs, creditors, and anyone else who has a rightful claim to some of the intestate possessions.
Because this process is expensive, lengthy, and can sometimes get ugly (especially with unscrupulous descendants, or con artists), dying intestate is something that should be avoided.
Writing a last will, or setting up a living trust before death, ensures that the process of transfer of possessions will happen inexpensively, quickly, and without abuse or rancor among family members.