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anti-lapse statute

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A statute that is enacted in most states that allows the heirs of a devisee or legatee who passes away prior to the testator to take possession of the testamentary gift that was originally intended for the devisee or legatee. Without this statute, the gift would fall and go to the secondary, or residuary, beneficiary - if there is any - or else it will to to the testator's intestate heirs.