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Intestate Distribution in Florida

Intestate property is property that is not disposed of by a will, trust, or similar document. If you die without a will, or if you die with only part of your assets disposed of by will or trust, then the remaining assets go to your closest relatives, according to Florida’s intestacy laws.

Intestacy Rules

Whole intestacy occurs when a decedent does not have a valid will. Partial intestacy is when there is a valid will or trust, but it does not dispose of the deceased person’s entire estate, and so there are assets that are not distributed under the estate plan. This sometimes happens when parts of a will are not valid.

Intestate property from both whole and partial intestacy is distributed according to Florida’s intestacy rules. Who inherits depends on who survives the decedent:

Surviving Relatives Result
Spouse, no lineal descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.) Spouse inherits all
Spouse, lineal descendants who are also descendants of the spouse, and the spouse has no other descendants Spouse inherits all
Lineal descendants, no spouse Descendants inherit all, per stirpes
Spouse, plus descendants who are not also the spouse’s descendants Spouse inherits half, plus the decedent’s descendants inherit half, per stirpes
Spouse, plus spouse has descendants who are not also the decedent’s descendants Spouse inherits half, plus the decedent’s descendants inherit half, per stirpes
No surviving spouse, no lineal descendants Lineal ascendants (parents, grandparents, etc.) inherit all, per stirpes
No spouse, no lineal descendants, no lineal ascendants Collateral relatives (siblings, nieces, nephews) inherit all, per stirpes
No spouse, no descendants, no ascendants, no collateral relatives Half to descendants of maternal grandparents, plus half to descendants of paternal grandparents, per stirpes

Per Stirpes

Per stirpes means that each descendant gets an equal share, and if one descendant is deceased, his or her share will be equally divided among his or her descendants. For example: a decedent had a son and two daughters. The son had two children, and the daughters each had one. At the time of the decedent’s death, the son and one daughter had already died.

Under the per stirpes method of distribution, the surviving daughter gets 1/3 of the decedent’s estate. The other daughter’s share goes wholly to her child, who thus also gets 1/3 of the estate. The son’s 1/3 share is split between his two children, who each get 1/6.

Children and Relatives

Florida law defines who is considered a child for inheritance purposes. Children means biological children, including children conceived before, but born after, death. It also includes adopted children. Children born out of wedlock may inherit from their fathers as long as paternity has been legally established or acknowledged, or if the parents were married, but the marriage turned out to be void. Stepchildren may not inherit under the rules of intestacy; nor may children who have been adopted by someone else, except in the event of a stepparent adoption.

Half-relatives are treated like whole relatives in Florida intestacy. Thus, a half-sibling will share equally with whole siblings, if the decedent’s siblings inherit under the intestacy rules.

Spouses who are divorced are no longer are entitled to inherit through intestacy. But if the decedent dies before a divorce is finalized, the spouse can still inherit.

Any person who is involved in the murder of a decedent is disqualified from inheriting from that person. A criminal conviction is helpful, but not necessary, to prove that the relative was involved.

Create an estate plan and make sure your property is distributed how you want after your death. Please contact a West Palm Beach estate planning attorney at the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray for a free initial consultation.

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