Dying Without A Will: What Happens To Your Stuff?
The surest way to avoid people fighting over your property when you pass on, is to have a will and estate plan, and make sure they are done correctly. However, that doesn’t always happen, and many times people pass without having any will at all. That can often lead to fighting amongst relatives, but what happens when someone passes without a will?
Florida’s Intestate Laws
Florida’s intestate laws provide a “default,” which dictate how property will be given to relatives when you pass, if you don’t designate otherwise in your will or estate plan.
Intestate laws apply to property that don’t pass any other way. For example, some people may have property held in a payable on death account, with a designated payee. In that case, the property or money would pass to the designee, regardless of intestate laws. The same is true for some insurance proceeds, or property that is held as joint tenants.
Who Gets What?
If you have only a spouse or children—that is, you have one, but not the other—all your property will be given to either the spouse or the children. If you have both a spouse and children with that spouse, the spouse will also inherit everything. The same is true for parents—if you just have surviving parents and no spouse or kids, your parents will get everything.
If your spouse has kids from another relationship, then your spouse and your children with the spouse, will both divide half of your estate. The same is true if you have a spouse, and you have your own kids from another marriage or relationship-both your spouse and your kids will inherit half of your property or estate.
So, as you can see, your kids only directly inherit anything, if you or your spouse has kids from another person or partner.
Your siblings generally only recover anything if there are no spouse, kids or parents surviving.
What is a Child?
Adopted kids are treated the same way as biological children for intestate purposes. However, stepchildren that aren’t legally adopted will not be treated as kids. If you put your kids up for adoption, they will not be treated as your kids for intestate purposes—unless they are adopted by your spouse.
If you have kids born out of marriage—that is, before you were legally married—you will need to legally establish paternity. This can be done by acknowledging paternity in writing or if a court established paternity, as often happens in paternity cases, when a court is establishing child support or visitation.
Intestate laws go all the way down to uncles, nephews, and grandchildren and even siblings of your spouse, so it is usually quite certain that someone will inherit your property—although for control over who gets what, you’ll need a will.
The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray can help with any probate matter. Contact West Palm Beach probate lawyer Larry E. Bray today to schedule a consultation.