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Descent means the succession to the estate property by inheritance, or by any act of law. These are the rules of inheritance established by law for cases in which there is no will naming the persons to receive the property of a person who has died. Therefore, title by descent is the title by which one person, upon the death of another, acquires the estate property of the latter as an heir at law. This manner of acquiring property stands in complete contrast to acquiring property through purchase. 

The rules of descent vary slightly from state to state. As a general rule, if a person owning real estate dies without devising a will, the estate passes on to the descendants in the direct line of lineal descent. For example, from father or grandfather to son or grandson. 

However, when the owner of an estate dies without any lawful issue, it is a rule in some states, that the estate shall ascend to the parents. If there are no parents, then the estate passes to the collateral descendants

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