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In the financial and legal sector, “intestate” refers to a person who dies without leaving a valid will. Consequently, the distribution of their assets is then governed by the laws of the jurisdiction in which they resided. This can potentially lead to outcomes that the deceased may not have wanted.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Intestate” is: ɪnˈtɛsteɪt.

Key Takeaways

Sure, here are three key takeaways about Intestate:“`html

  1. Intestate refers to dying without a legal will: When a person dies without having a valid will in place, they are said to have died ‘intestate’. The specific rules for dividing the property of someone who dies intestate can vary significantly by jurisdiction.
  2. Distribution of assets: In an intestate situation, the distribution of assets is typically undertaken according to the intestacy laws of the state where the person resided. Generally, the deceased’s assets will be divided among their closest relatives, such as spouse and children. In cases where no eligible relatives can be found, the deceased’s assets may escheat, or revert back to the state.
  3. Intestate can lead to complications: A person dying intestate can often result in complications, delays and potential disputes among surviving family members. Therefore, preparing a will is highly recommended to ensure one’s assets are distributed as per their wishes upon death.

“`Please note that these rules change and vary from location to location and even case by case, so legal advice should be sought as necessary.


The term “Intestate” is important in business and finance because it refers to a situation where an individual dies without leaving a lawful will to distribute their assets after their death. Intestate laws, also known as “laws of descent and distribution,” consequently determine how these assets, or the deceased’s estate, will be divided among surviving relatives. These laws vary from one jurisdiction to another but typically favor spouses, children, and parents. Without a legal will, individuals cannot ensure their assets are allocated according to their wishes, which could lead to potential disputes among heirs, and could potentially leave loved ones or charities without intended support. Therefore, the concept of “intestate” underlines the importance of estate planning and creating a valid will.


Intestate is a term primarily used in the field of estate and probate law and it refers to the situation that occurs when a person dies without leaving behind a valid will. The purpose of designating a situation as intestate is to apply a legal framework for the distribution of the deceased person’s assets. When an individual dies intestate, the state law interprets the individual’s presumptive distribution preferences and enforces those under its intestacy laws. Here, the primary function is to ensure a structured, fair, and legally-binding process of transferring the deceased’s estate to the rightful heirs.The concept of intestate is crucial because it outlines the way forward when someone dies without explicitly stating how they wish their assets to be disposed of. In many cases, the intestate succession implies that the deceased’s estate will be divided among immediate family members according to the order of priority determined by the state law. For instance, a common hierarchy includes the surviving spouse, children, parents, and then siblings. While the concept of intestacy may seem simple, it often involves complex legal procedures and underscores the importance of having a well-prepared will or estate plan to ensure an individual’s wishes are executed upon their death.


1. Example 1: John, a wealthy landowner, died suddenly from a heart attack. He did not have a written will. Because he died “intestate” , the state’s laws have taken effect, dictating how his assets (including his land, his money, his personal belongings) are distributed. Since he was unmarried and has two living children, according to most state laws, his property is divided equally among his kids.2. Example 2: Sarah, a successful business woman, has accumulated a considerable amount of wealth including stocks, tangible assets, real estate, and cash. Unfortunately, she tragically died in an accident without a will. This is a case of intestate succession where her estate will be distributed according to the state law. If she lives in a state following the law of “per stirpes” , her children will get equal shares of her estate, but if any of her children had predeceased her, that child’s share would go to his or her own descendants.3. Example 3: Robert, a retired teacher, passes away with no surviving spouse or children, and he doesn’t have a will. Since Robert has died intestate, the state laws will determine who will inherit his estate. His siblings will likely inherit his estate; if there are no siblings, it could pass to nieces and nephews, then to cousins, then to the closest living relatives. If no relatives can be found, as a last resort, the state might take the property.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does the term Intestate mean?

Intestate is a legal term that refers to an individual who has died without leaving a valid will.

What happens when a person dies intestate?

When a person dies intestate, their assets are divided according to the laws of the state where they resided. This typically involves distributing assets to closest living relatives.

Can an individual partially die intestate?

Yes, an individual can partially die intestate if they left a will but didn’t cover all their assets. In such a case, the unaddressed assets would be distributed according to intestate laws of the state.

Do intestate laws vary?

Yes, intestate laws vary from one jurisdiction to the next. The specific laws in the region where the deceased person lived at the time of their death will be applied.

What is the purpose of intestate laws?

Intestate laws or rules serve to distribute a decedent’s estate when no valid will is in place. It aims to fairly distribute the estate, typically among the closest surviving relatives.

What assets are covered by intestate succession laws?

Intestate succession laws only cover assets that were owned in the person’s individual name. Assets that have been put into a living trust or joint ownership, for example, wouldn’t normally be covered.

How are the beneficiaries of an intestate estate determined?

The beneficiaries are determined based on the relationship to the deceased. Spouses, children, parents, and siblings are most commonly designated, with relationships considered in that approximate order.

Can an unmarried partner inherit under intestate laws?

In most places, an unmarried partner cannot inherit unless specifically stated in a valid will. The laws of intestacy often favor legal spouses and blood relatives unless otherwise dictated by a will.

Can intestate inheritance be contested?

Yes, intestate inheritance can be contested in court. However, it involves a complex legal process and typically requires compelling justification.

How can one avoid intestacy?

The best way to avoid intestacy is by creating a valid will or trust, where you explicitly state how you want your properties to be distributed after your death. It is often advised to enlist the help of a professional, such as an attorney, when creating these documents.

Related Finance Terms

  • Probate
  • Estate Administration
  • Inheritance Law
  • Succession
  • Letters of Administration

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