Intestate succession refers to the order of relatives to a deceased person who stand to inherit the deceased person's property.
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When someone dies without leaving a will or other legal document that disposes of his property, he is known as an intestate decedent. With no legal disposition of property, the intestate decedent's living relatives (known as heirs) may inherit his property.
The determination of which living relative will inherit an intestate decedent's property is determined by the order of intestate succession. Each jurisdiction has its own order; most states' orders begin with the decedent's spouse, then move to his children and their descendants. Some jurisdictions also allow the decedent's parents and their descendants to inherit.
In most jurisdictions, relatives who claim heirship must petition a court and receive a legal determination that they are heirs under the order of intestate succession. An heirship determination is sufficient to prove legal ownership of the intestate decedent's property.
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