Decedent is a term that is generally used in the law governing estates and trusts, in reference to a person who has died. Decedents have rights that continue after their death and the authority to take certain actions/make certain decisions through third-party representatives. The assets of a decedent are known as the decedent’s estate.
The primary methods a decedent uses to exert influence and exercise their rights after their death are through trusts and wills. Each of these tools allow the decedent to distribute their assets in accordance with their wishes. That said, a decedent’s right to distribute their property is not absolute, and that property is subject to the claims of others. For example, if the decedent died while in debt, their estate must satisfy those debts before it can transfer in accordance with the decedent’s will.
In the event a decedent passes away intestate, or without a valid will, their assets will be distributed in accordance with the rules of the given state’s probate law. The distribution of a decedent’s assets is often handled by probate court.
[Last updated in August of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]