Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2010


This Article uses an empirical study to test whether, in the absence of a will, beneficiary designations in will substitutes provide reliable evidence for approximating decedents' donative intent in an intestacy statute. No previous scholarship has explored the relationship between will-substitute beneficiary designations and intestacy statutes. We set out to investigate public attitudes about will substitutes and determine if the public prefers current law, which ignores will substitutes when determining the disposition of a decedent's property passing by intestate succession, or a statutory pattern that takes into account beneficiary designations found in a decedent's will substitutes. We are mindful that the import of will-substitute designations can be ambiguous when it comes to imputing intent with regard to an intestate decedent's probate estate. Our project, therefore, investigates under what circumstances and in what ways, if at all, decedents make known their donative intent with respect to their probate estates by naming a beneficiary in a will substitute.



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