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What is a decedent?

A decedent is technically someone who is no longer alive. The term decedent is used in estate matters often, especially since a person can plan ahead to use estate planning tools to effect financial and other decisions even when they are no longer around.

In this way, decedents remain as a legal entity, even after they pass away. If you are planning ahead, you can leverage this type of legal power through wills or trusts. If you are an executor or family member of someone who has passed away, then you might be required to act on behalf of the decedent to settle certain debts or file a final income tax return.

One of the biggest ways a decedent can impact things after he or she is gone is through a trust. Once the person passes away, he or she legally becomes the decedent and any trust created can become active. You do have to have a plan in place to fund the trust — or have already funded the trust before you die — or it's a fairly useless legal document.

You can place a range of assets in a trust while you are alive. You can also put something like a life insurance policy in a trust so that when it pays out, it benefits the trust. The assets in the trust are then used by administrators and executors according to the wishes you have already laid out.

When it comes to estate or trust administration, relying on both the law and the spirit of the decedent is essential. Because the two might not always line up exactly, working with a legal professional can help you walk the line in the most appropriate manner.

Source: Investopedia, "Decedent," accessed April 28, 2017

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