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What do the terms testate and intestate mean?

There are two words that you might encounter in the world of estate planning, but the average California resident doesn't generally know what they mean. These terms are: testate and intestate. This article will discuss what both of them mean.

If you die and your will is valid, then the state will view your death as "testate." In other words, before you died, you spelled out exactly what you wanted to have happen legally in a last will and testament. On the flip side, if you happen to die but there is no valid will for the courts to refer to, then it is said that you died "intestate." In addition, there is also the concept of "partially intestate" which refers to situations where individuals die but not all of their assets are covered in by their wills.

In order to prevent dying intestate by accident, California residents are encouraged to check in with their estate planning attorneys from time to time to determine if the laws have changed, if their will is truly complete and current and to ensure that everything was appropriately executed and witnessed. By doing this, it will greatly reduce the chances of dying intestate inadvertently.

Dying intestate is definitely something you want to avoid. Indeed, the affects can be very difficult for family members who might fall into arguments, disagreements and legal battles over how your estate should be divided. In these, cases distribution of an estate will be decided by the courts, and that distribution may not be in agreement with your wishes.

Did your relative die intestate? You may want to consult with a California estate attorney to determine what can be done to ensure your right to inherit is appropriately protected.

Source: Dummies, "Status of Your Will: Testate or Intestate?," accessed March 04, 2016

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