What Happens If I Die Without A Will?
If you are asking this question, you’re likely a bit of a procrastinator, or maybe you just aren’t in a rush to face your own mortality. Unfortunately, life has a way of catching up to you. You can’t change the final outcome, but you can choose whether to have a plan for it, and that choice only exists while you are alive and competent, so it’s always best to take advantage of your autonomy while you can. Luckily, it is not hard to create a will with the help of an experienced attorney. The hardest part is generally just making the decision to do it. However, if you elect not to make a will, your assets will still be dispersed, you just won’t have a say in who they go to. They will be distributed through a legal process known as intestate succession.
Understanding Intestate Succession
Whether you have a valid will or not, your estate will end up in the same place: Florida probate court. In probate, the court will identify all assets of the decedent, settle all debts, and pay legal fees. If there is a will, the court will determine if the will is valid. During this process, beneficiaries may challenge the will if they believe it is fraudulent, inauthentic, or was made under duress. If there is no will, or if the existing will is deemed to be invalid or unenforceable, then the court will use Florida’s intestate succession statutes to determine how the estate will be distributed. It’s important to understand that not all assets may be subject to intestate succession; only the assets that would have passed through a will are subject to these laws. If the decedent had jointly-shared assets with a survivorship interest they will automatically transfer to the co-owner upon the joint-owner’s death. Life insurance proceeds and anything that you have transferred into living trusts will also not be affected. This also means that if you have a spouse or dependent that is reliant on you for certain financial assets and you don’t have other estate planning measures in place, you may want to consider adding them on to your account so that they have access to the funds if you die.
Who Inherits My Estate Under Intestate Succession?
Under intestate succession your closest relatives will inherit your remaining assets after all debts are settled and probate and legal fees are paid from the estate. Who inherits what exactly depends on the structure of your family. For instance, if you have children but no spouse, the children will inherit everything. If you have a spouse but no children, the spouse will inherit everything. If you have a spouse and you and the spouse each only have shared children with one another, your spouse will inherit the entire estate, with the understanding that they will continue to care for your shared children. However, if your spouse has children from another relationship in addition to shared children with you, your children will receive half of your estate (distributed equally among them) and your spouse will receive the other half. Likewise, if you have children from another relationship they will inherit half of your estate and your spouse will inherit the other half. If you do not have children or a spouse, but you have parents, then your parents will inherit your entire estate. Finally, if you do not have a spouse, children, or parents, then your estate will be distributed to any siblings that you have.
Talk to Larry E. Bray
Don’t put off planning your estate any longer. Peace of mind is on the other side of a simple meeting. Contact a West Palm Beach estate planning lawyer at the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray today to schedule a consultation.