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The deceased–more commonly referred to as the decedent in a legal context–is a person who has died. This is the central person in the law of estates and trusts. All of the deceased’s assets become a part of their estate. If the deceased established a will or trust prior to their death, their estate is distributed to the designated beneficiaries. A person who dies without a will dies intestate. In that event, the deceased’s estate is distributed by a probate court based on their state’s laws of intestate succession.

[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]