By: Rebecca Nichols, Esq.

Published at

3 October 2023

Testate vs. Intestate Estates: When There Is a Will, There Is a Way.

Navigating the seas of estate planning often requires the guidance of Lawyers specializing in wills and trusts. These professionals are well-versed in law, adept at managing complex legal situations, and compassionate in understanding your concerns and preferences.


Comprehensive Estate Planning involves making crucial decisions about the distribution of your assets after your death. Two terms that are critical in this process are “testate” and “intestate.” To effectively navigate the legal landscape, let’s break down Testate vs. Intestate, their implications, and general rules.


The words“testate” and “intestate” often crop up in legal discourse and in the media. Each term holds a significant bearing on the legal and financial aspects of life (and death). However, they are typically discussed in niche circles, leaving the average person somewhat in the dark. Through this blog piece, we aim to shed light on these terms, their implications, and why they are a pivotal part of the conversation surrounding estate planning.


Definitions: Terminology Matters

Just as a sturdy foundation paves the way for robust construction, understanding key terms can illuminate the path to complex legal concepts. So, before embarking on the journey to understanding testate and intestate, let’s clarify some terms:


Will: A legal document outlining how an individual—the testator—wants their assets to be distributed after their death.


Estate: A collective term that refers to an individual’s assets, including but not limited to property, money, and personal belongings.


Testate: This is the situation when an individual dies, leaving behind a valid will. Dying “testate” means the individual died with a Last Will and Testament in place.


Intestate: The circumstance when a person dies without leaving a valid will, leading to potential complexities in the distribution of their assets.


What Does it Mean to Die Testate or Intestate?

To die testate means that a person has passed away leaving a valid will behind, which includes clear instructions on how their estate should be distributed. Executors are responsible for overseeing the administration of testate estates.


On the other hand, dying intestate refers to a situation where a person dies without a valid will. In such cases, the deceased person’s estate is distributed according to state intestacy laws. The court typically appoints an administrator to manage the distribution of intestate estates.

The main difference between a dying testate and an intestate lies in the presence of a valid will. And the method by which the estate is distributed.


  • The World of Testate: Control in Your Hands


A dying testate means an individual has passed away but not without leaving behind a valid will. Their will provides clear instructions on how their estate—their assets in their entirety—should be distributed following their demise.


In the will, the testator usually appoints an executor— a person entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the stipulations are carried out as planned. Their duty includes everything from distributing items of sentimental value to relatives to ensuring financial assets find their way to the correct beneficiaries.


The role of an estate planning trust attorney surfaces in situations like these. They offer expert advice to the executor, guiding them through the ins and outs of the probate process. An often complex procedure validating the will. Lawyers specializing in wills and trusts provide assistance that ensures the management and execution of the testator’s last wishes are executed seamlessly.


Venturing into Intestate: When there’s no Will there is no Way


When an individual passes away without leaving a valid will behind, they are said to have died intestate. This situation can weave a web of legal complexities for the surviving family members and loved ones. Especially when it comes to the distribution of assets.


In an intestate situation, statutory specifically intestacy laws-step in to provide a legal framework for asset distribution. Usually, an appointed administrator takes on the responsibility of allocating the assets as per the law. Spouses, children, parents, and siblings—those in the direct line of kinship—are the usual beneficiaries.


Lawyers from reputableFlorida Will Trusts and Probate Firm, can help make sense of the complexities navigated by the administrator. They ensure that the distribution of assets meets the legal requirements while balancing the best interests of the beneficiaries.


Testate vs. Intestate: A Comprehensive Comparison

The primary difference between a testate and an intestate situation lies in the control over asset distribution. When a person dies testate, their assets are distributed as per their last wishes documented in the will. However, when a person dies intestate, Florida statutes dictate the distribution of assets, per the existing intestate laws.


Each of these scenarios has unique implications for asset distribution. Which poses a distinct set of emotional and financial challenges for the family and beneficiaries. The stress of these processes can be eased significantly with the guidance of a skilled Will and Trusts Administration Attorney. Specialized law firms ensure parties’ best interests are upheld during wills, trusts, and probate proceedings.


The below images can help you better understand and compare the basics of Testate vs. Intestate. With this detailed study, one can easily understand why to die testate rather than interstate.


testate vs intestate

Testate/Intestate: Florida State Laws and Regulations

The turbulent sea of testate and intestate laws is affected by variances in state regulations. Each state can have distinct laws and regulations relating to these situations. Therefore, it’s crucial to remain aware that laws and procedures valid in one state may not apply in another.


For example, the laws governing the Administration of Trusts in Florida may inherently differ from those in another state. Seeking advice from a knowledgeable estate and trust lawyer in your state can offer the necessary guidance.


The 2023 Florida Statutes in Chapter 732 provide a legal guideline for intestate succession or estate distribution absence of a will. They outline how a decedent’s estate is divided among surviving heirs, addressing the spouse’s share, order of inheritance, rights of afterborn heirs and adoptees, and abolishment of dower and curtesy rights. These statutes emphasize the importance of estate planning and highlight the advantages of having a will for better control over asset distribution, reducing potential disputes, and ensuring decedents’ intentions are upheld.


The key points Include:


The Indispensable Legal Counsel in Estate Planning

Having an experienced attorney is invaluable when creating an estate plan or handling an intestate estate. The best Comprehensive Estate Planning attorneys aim to secure your wealth and assets and ensure your wishes regarding your health, family, and legacy are carried out as per your instructions.


A meeting at e-Estates and Trusts, PLLC can be the first step towards securing your future. This meeting enables you to gain a thorough understanding and develop a personalized estate plan to meet your specific requirements.


Testate vs. Intestate DO’s and Donts’:


  • 1. Do Consult with a Legal Expert: When preparing a will, consult with aFlorida Probate Attorney and Administration Lawyerto ensure you’re meeting all legal requirements.

  • 2. Do Frequently Update Your Will: Make modifications in your will after any significant life change (birth of a child, marriage, divorce, etc.) to keep it aligned with your current circumstances.

  • 3. Do Keep the Will Safe: Store the will in a secure location and make sure that trusted persons know its location.

  • 4. Do Appoint a Trusted Executor: Choose someone reliable to carry out your wishes as mentioned in the will.


  • 1. Don’t Ignore Intestacy Laws: If you don’t have a will, understand your local intestacy laws to know how your estate would be distributed.
  • 2. Don’t Overlook Any Asset: All assets, regardless of value, should be included in the will to prevent any disagreements.
  • 3. Don’t Have Just One Copy of Your Will: Secure multiple copies to avoid total loss, but ensure all copies are updated when changes occur.
  • 4. Don’t Try to Disinherit a Spouse Without Legal Consultation: Many states have laws that prevent disinheriting a spouse unless specific legal steps are taken.

Wrapping Up: A Recap & Understanding Implications

Knowing what it means to die testate or intestate can significantly influence one’s estate planning process. A strong grasp of these testate vs. intestate legal principles doesn’t only assist in smarter planning. It also ensures that your loved ones are offered higher security in the face of an unfortunate eventuality.


Ending Notes: Time for Action!

The sands of time stop for no one, and planning for the future is something that can never be done too early. Whether it involves consulting with a legal expert, setting up a meeting with an Estate Planning, Will, and Trust attorney, or learning more about trust administration, now is always the ideal time to start.


Safeguarding your legacy, protecting loved ones, and fulfilling your wishes is a timeless gift you can bestow. Make estate planning a priority. After all, ensuring peace of mind for you and your loved ones is a goal worth pursuing.


Creating a will doesn’t have to be an arduous task. A consultation with an attorney specializing in wills and trusts can set you on the right path. Estate planning ensures the future security of loved ones by making sound decisions beyond asset distribution.

Disclosure: The information contained in this website and blog is of a general nature and is not intended in any way to answer individual legal questions. If you have a legal question concerning your individual circumstances, please contact our firm to schedule a conference with one of our experienced attorneys. Your review of information from this website or blog does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor any legal privileges relating thereto. Offices in Ocala and Sebring.

©Copyright 2023 by e-Estatesandtrusts.com All Rights Reserved.