Financial PlanningEstate PlanningTestate vs Intestate: What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

Testate vs Intestate: What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

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When it comes to basic estate planning, the term intestate may not be something that you are familiar with. But it is an important concept to understand, especially if you want to ensure that your assets are handled in accordance with your wishes when you pass away.

Intestate refers to a situation where a person dies without having made any provisions for the distribution of their estate upon their death. In this article, we will take a closer look at exactly what intestate means and how it can affect your financial future.

For many people, the idea of dying without having taken steps to ensure their estate is properly taken care of can be quite daunting. After all, no one knows what the future holds and it’s important to make sure that your loved ones are provided for after you’re gone. Fortunately, understanding intestate and its implications can provide peace of mind and help you make better decisions about how to handle your affairs, or the decedents estate, in the case of unexpected death or incapacity.

Let’s explore what it means and how it can have an impact on both yourself and those you leave behind.

In this article, we’ll cover topics such as why it’s important to have an estate plan in place and how intestacy laws work in different states across the country. You’ll also learn the consequences of dying without a will or trust and find out how you can make sure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes when you’re gone. So let’s dive into this essential topic and get started!

What Is a Nuncupative Will? Are Oral Wills Valid?

What Is an Intestate Estate, or Intestacy?

What Happens When You Die Without a Will Intestate
What Happens When You Die Without a Will Intestate

Death is an inevitability, but what happens to a person’s estate when they die without a will? This is known as an intestate estate and the laws surrounding it are called intestacy laws. Intestacy laws can vary by state and country, but they all have one thing in common: dying without a will means that the estate is distributed according to the law instead of according to the deceased’s wishes.

Intestate administration can be complex, as multiple parties may be involved in distributing assets from the deceased’s estate. Without a will, it becomes unclear who should inherit assets like property, investments, or personal possessions. In this case, intestacy laws act as a substitute for a will and distribute the assets according to criteria such as the relationship between the beneficiary and the deceased.

However, there are some limitations to these laws that can lead to complications in estate planning. Therefore, it is always wise for individuals to consider creating an estate plan while they are still alive so their wishes are clear when they pass away.

Intestacy is the state of dying without a will. If a person dies without a will they are said to have “died intestate.”


Intestate Definition – It Varies By State

When an individual dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. This means that their estate will be distributed according to the laws of their state of residence. In this case, their assets and property will be divided according to a predetermined set of rules and guidelines known as intestacy laws.

Intestacy laws differ from state to state, but generally, a decedent’s spouse and children are given priority when it comes to receiving the assets from an estate. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the property may go to other relatives such as siblings or parents. If an individual has no living relatives, then the property usually goes to the state in which they resided at the time of death.

Understanding the meaning of intestacy is important for individuals who wish to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes after they pass away. Without a valid will in place, it is up to local laws and regulations to determine how their estate is handled upon death. Moving on from here, we’ll look at how these estates are passed on through succession…

Texas Inheritance Laws & Intestate Succession

Intestate Succession Laws by State

Intestate Succession – Surviving Spouse, Children and Others

The laws of intestate succession serve as a silent testament to the importance of planning for the future. Like a still lake reflecting the landscape around it, these laws determine who will receive one’s assets and possessions in the event of death without a validly executed will.

In other words, intestate succession dictates how property is distributed to beneficiaries when someone passes away without leaving behind a will or trust.

Under state laws, succession typically follows a hierarchy that begins with the deceased individual’s surviving spouse and children before the decedent passes away. Adopted children and divorced ex-spouses make it for a more complicated situation.

If they do not exist, then relatives like siblings, parents, and grandparents may be eligible to receive assets under intestacy rules. Other heirs such as great-grandparents and cousins may also be entitled to estates depending on their state’s laws governing succession.

But regardless of who stands to inherit property under intestacy laws, it remains true that estate planning is essential in order to ensure that one’s wishes are fulfilled upon their passing. And while intestate succession provides a legal framework for distributing assets in certain circumstances, it cannot replace the power of an individual’s last will and testament.

Intestate Succession

Testate Vs Intestate

Testate and intestate are two types of estate planning. Testate is when a person creates a will to determine how their assets should be distributed upon their death, while intestate is when a person dies without a valid will.

Testate estates allow the deceased to make their own decisions about their inheritance and who will receive it.

Without a valid will, the state determines who receives the assets. In the case of intestacy, the state follows an intestate succession chart to divide up the estate.

This chart below outlines who gets what assets based on familial relationships. The closer relationship you have with the deceased, generally increases your share of inheritance from an intestacy estate.

Intestate succession charts can be complex and vary from state to state; understanding these laws can help ensure that one’s wishes for inheritance are followed after death. It’s important to note that regardless of whether someone has created a will or not, all assets must go through probate before being officially distributed according to testate or intestate rules.

Contesting a Will

Intestate Succession Chart

Now, let’s look more closely at intestate succession. When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate and the laws of their home state will determine how their estate is distributed. An intestate succession chart shows who has rights to the deceased’s property according to their state’s laws. It also outlines the intestate succession rules, which define who is eligible to inherit property when someone dies without a will.

In terms of intestate succession rights, the order typically goes from surviving spouses and children to other relatives such as siblings or parents. Depending on the state, some distant relatives may not be eligible for any inheritance at all.

Intestate succession taxes are also determined by each state; it is important to understand these taxes in order to avoid any unexpected burdens that may arise after death. With all this in mind, it’s time to explore what happens next: intestate probate.

Taxes on an Inheritance: What You Need to Know

Here’s a chart outlining who gets what percentage of assets based on familial relationships in both testate (with a will) and intestate (without a will) scenarios:

SpouseCan inherit all or a portion of the estate as specified in the willInherits all or a significant portion of the estate, depending on state laws
ChildrenCan inherit all or a portion of the estate as specified in the willInherits all or a significant portion of the estate, depending on state laws
ParentsCan inherit all or a portion of the estate if there is no spouse or children, as specified in the willInherits all or a significant portion of the estate, depending on state laws
SiblingsCan inherit all or a portion of the estate if there are no spouse, children, or parents, as specified in the willInherits all or a significant portion of the estate, depending on state laws
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relativesCan inherit all or a portion of the estate if there are no spouse, children, parents, or siblings, as specified in the willInherits all or a significant portion of the estate, depending on state laws

It’s important to note that inheritance laws can vary by state and country, so it’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney to ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of your death.

Intestate Probate

Intestate probate refers to the process of distributing the assets of an individual who died without a will. It’s important to understand estate planning, intestate rights and the laws governing this process in order to navigate it successfully.

Probate attorneys are highly knowledgeable in this area and can provide invaluable guidance when handling an intestate case. Additionally, there are many online resources that can help you research relevant information about intestate law.

No matter what your situation is, if you’ve been appointed as an executor for an estate or have inherited from someone who passed away without a will, it’s important that you understand how to proceed in order to protect yourself and your loved ones. With some patience and due diligence, you should be able to handle any situation related to an intestate probate case with confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ frequently asked questions

What Is The Timeline For An Intestate Estate To Be Settled?

The timeline for settling an intestate estate depends on several factors, such as the complexity of the assets, number of creditors involved, and any disputes between heirs. This can range from three months to two years. Executors or administrators appointed by the court should prioritize their duties and work efficiently to ensure a timely settlement. Being organized and adhering to deadlines is key to avoiding disruptions in the process.

How Can I Avoid An Intestate Succession?

To avoid intestate succession, it’s important to engage in estate planning and will drafting with the help of an experienced estate lawyer. This involves reviewing and updating your assets regularly and creating a legally-binding will or trust to distribute your assets upon death. This proactive approach can help prevent potential disputes and ensure your wishes are carried out properly, while also considering legal and tax considerations. With the help of a skilled professional, you can ensure that all bases are covered and avoid costly probate court expenses in the future.

What Are The Legal Costs Associated With Intestate Probate?

Intestate probate, which is the legal process of handling an estate when someone dies without a will, can be expensive due to legal fees. The total cost will depend on factors such as the types of assets in the estate, debts that need to be paid off, and the number of beneficiaries. Filing fees for intestate succession also vary by state. To avoid these costs, individuals should create a legally-binding will to ensure their wishes are followed after death. Consulting with an estate planning attorney can provide guidance on how to proceed.

Can Intestate Succession Be Contested?

Contesting intestate succession is possible but can be a difficult and costly process. It involves challenging who is entitled to the deceased’s assets and requires concrete evidence to stand up in court. It’s important to understand the relevant laws and seek legal advice before pursuing any contested claims.

How Do I Find An Attorney To Help With An Intestate Probate?

To find an attorney for intestate probate, it’s important to do your research and find a qualified and experienced lawyer who specializes in estate or probate law. Speak with multiple lawyers, ask about their experience, and get references from past clients. Make sure to discuss the specifics of your case and the state laws that may affect it. Having an experienced lawyer on your side can simplify the process and give you peace of mind that everything is being handled properly.


When dealing with an intestate estate, it’s important to understand the timeline, know how to avoid succession, and be aware of the legal costs involved. To make sure you’re properly prepared for this complex process, it’s imperative to find a qualified attorney who can guide you through each step.

Imagining all the details that go into organizing an intestate estate without proper guidance is overwhelming. Even something as small as finding an attorney can be intimidating when faced with the intricacies of probate law. However, seeking help from experienced professionals can make navigating the legal system much easier and quicker.

My advice for anyone dealing with an intestate estate is to be proactive in exploring their options and taking measures to ensure their affairs are in order. Reaching out to a knowledgeable lawyer is essential to making sure your wishes are respected and your family is taken care of after you’re gone. With the right help, you have peace of mind that your legacy will live on long after you’re gone.

Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan
Who Am I? I'm Michael Ryan, a retired financial planner turned personal financial coach. And author and found of blog. My advice is backed by decades of hands-on experience in finance and recognition in esteemed publications like US News & World Report, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. 'here'. Find answers to your financial questions, from budgeting to investing and retirement planning, on my blog My mission is to democratize financial literacy for all.