Skip to Main Content


Decedent is a legal term that it’s helpful to understand. Here’s what it means.

What is a decedent?

The term decedent is used in medical and legal contexts to refer to someone who has died. In legal terms, the word decedent is often used in estate planning as in a last will and testament or other documents. It also refers to a taxpayer who leaves behind any kind of estate.

Deeper definition

In regards to legal and financial matters, a decedent still exists, at least on paper, even after they die. This is because matters of finances, property, and various other aspects of their estate are still left behind. For example, even though a person has died, a tax return must be filed for him or her for any income he or she earned during the previous tax year. If someone undertakes estate planning during his life, he takes on the title of decedent even before he dies because that is how he will be addressed in the paperwork and documentation related to his estate and how he will be referred to by attorneys and other legal professionals handling his estate.

The term decedent is also used when an authorized representative takes legal action on behalf of the person who has died. This could be a legal representative, such as an attorney, or a family member that files a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of someone who died in a car accident

Example of decedent

If a person writes a will or establishes a trust before he or she dies, that person becomes the decedent as far as those documents are concerned and how the person is referred to after he or she dies. For example, say a will was brought into court after the person’s death because of a dispute. The person’s attorney would be part of the case and would say he was representing the interests of the decedent regarding that person’s last will and testament. This would include his or her wishes regarding how the estate was distributed to heirs and any other interested parties.

More From Bankrate