What Are The Practical Differences Between “Testate” And “Intestate”?

The terms “testate” and “intestate” are terms of art used by attorneys that refer to whether a person died with a Will. A testate estate is one where the person died leaving behind a valid Will. An intestate estate is one where there was no Will, or the Will was invalid.

When an estate is testate (there is a valid Will), the decedent’s estate is distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. The Personal Representative and courts are charged with fulfilling the deceased person’s wishes as stated in the Will.

When an estate is intestate (no valid Will), the decedent’s estate is distributed according to statute. Generally, the statute provides that the estate will pass to the nearest relatives of the deceased person. Contrary to what some people are told, a person’s estate does not pass to the state or government in this situation. A person’s estate will only pass to the state or government (called an “escheat”) if no living relatives of the deceased person can be found after a diligent search.

Douglas N. Kiger, Attorney at Law

Blado Kiger Bolan, Tacoma, Wash.

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