top of page

Understanding Probate: The Difference between Testate and Intestate Estates

Updated: May 6

When it comes to probate, understanding key terms and concepts is essential. One of the fundamental distinctions in probate law is between testate and intestate estates. In this blog post, we'll unravel the difference between these two terms and shed light on their significance in Florida Probate.

Testate Estate - Passing with a Will

A testate estate refers to a situation where an individual passes away with a valid Last Will and Testament in place. Let's break down what this means:

  • Valid Will: A Will is a legal document that outlines a person's wishes regarding the distribution of their assets upon their death. To be considered valid, a Will in Florida must meet certain legal requirements, such as being in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the Will) in the presence of witnesses, and properly executed.

  • Executor or Personal Representative: In a testate estate, the deceased person typically designates an executor or personal representative in their Will. This individual is responsible for managing the probate process and ensuring that the decedent's wishes, as specified in the Will, are carried out.

  • Distribution According to the Will: In a testate estate, the distribution of assets follows the instructions outlined in the decedent's Will. The Will specifies who receives what, and the personal representative is legally bound to carry out these instructions, provided they are valid and legally enforceable.

Intestate Estate - Passing without a Will

An intestate estate, on the other hand, arises when a person passes away without a valid Will in place. In this scenario:

  • No Valid Will: The decedent did not leave behind a legally valid Will.

  • Laws of Intestacy: In the absence of a Will, Florida's laws of intestacy come into play. These laws provide a framework for how the estate should be distributed. Typically, the surviving spouse, children, or other close relatives may inherit a share of the estate, depending on the family's specific circumstances. These relatives are considered the decedent’s heirs-at-law.

The Importance of Knowing the Difference

Understanding the difference between testate and intestate estates is crucial for several reasons:

  • Estate Planning: Knowing the distinction can help individuals plan their estates effectively. Creating a valid Will allows them to have control over asset distribution, ensuring their wishes are carried out.

  • Probate Process: The presence or absence of a Will significantly impacts the probate process. A testate estate follows the instructions in the Will, while an intestate estate follows statutory guidelines, which can be more complex.

  • Legal Assistance: Whether you're dealing with a testate or intestate estate, consulting a Florida Probate Attorney is essential. They can guide you through the legal complexities of the probate process, ensuring a smooth and lawful distribution of assets.

Contact atCause Law Office for Probate Guidance

If you have questions or require assistance with probate matters in Florida, including creating a will, understanding the laws of intestacy, or managing an estate, don't hesitate to reach out to the experienced team at atCause Law Office. Contact us at 727-477-2255 for expert guidance and support tailored to your unique needs.


In summary, the difference between testate and intestate estates lies in the presence or absence of a valid Will. Having a Will allows for a more organized and customized estate distribution per the wishes of the decedent, while intestacy relies on asset distribution following statutory guidelines. It's essential to plan your estate carefully and seek legal counsel to navigate the probate process effectively, regardless of whether it's testate or intestate.

Disclaimer: The website for atCause Law Office has some general info aimed at people in Florida. They're not looking to dish out legal advice on their site or blog. They recommend finding a licensed lawyer in your state if you're looking for legal advice. So that you know, the wording on this website doesn't mean you and the firm are in a lawyer-client relationship.

94 views0 comments


bottom of page