What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Florida?
Dying without a last will and testament is known as dying “intestate.” What property is inherited by your family members will be dictated by applicable intestate laws and what type of property you had at the time of death. If you don’t want to leave things to chance, it’s best to have at least a last will and testament as the bare minimum for your estate planning. And it is to be noted whether there is a will or trust (testate) or there is not a will or trust (intestate), assets titled in the decedent’s name only, will still need to go though the probate process.
Here’s a look at some of Florida’s intestate succession laws.
When You are Survived by a Spouse and/or Children
The first person who typically will inherit under intestate laws is the surviving spouse. This does not mean a long-term live-in partner or girlfriend/boyfriend. This needs to be someone you have a legal marriage certificate with. If you have no children, the spouse will be the one who primarily inherits everything.
If you have children, your children will be next in line after your spouse. Your spouse will get their amount allotted under the intestate laws, then the children are next. However, it can become tricky here in the event one of your children passes away before you for example. Also, if you have descendants who are not descendants of your current spouse, the percentages will change.
For example, if you are survived by a spouse and descendants, all of whom are descendants of your spouse, and your spouse has no other living descendants, then your spouse would inherit the full amount of your estate. If some of your descendants are not from your surviving spouse (essentially children from another marriage), then the surviving spouse would get one-half of your estate and your descendants would receive the other half.
To clearly understand what happens when you leave behind a spouse and children, it is recommended to speak with a knowledgeable West Palm Beach estate planning attorney.
You Are Not Survived by a Spouse or Children
In the absence of a surviving spouse and/or children or grandchildren, you would move on to the next eligible party. In this case it would be your parents. If your parents have also passed away, your siblings would be the next in line.
In the event you don’t have any surviving parents, siblings, or descendants of siblings, then the estate would be divided such that one half would go to your paternal family and the other half would go to your maternal family based on a specific formula. For example, your estate would be divided between your grandfather and grandmother equally. If there are no grandparents, then next in line are your uncles and/or aunts and their descendants.
If there is no one who falls under the hierarchy of the intestate laws of Florida, your entire probate estate would escheat to the State of Florida. If this isn’t all confusing enough, your estate debts must be paid before any assets or personal property are distributed.
Contact a West Palm Beach Probate Attorney
Because intestate succession can be extremely confusing, any questions should be directed to an experienced West Palm Beach probate attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. and we will be happy to answer any questions you have. We can also help you establish your own estate plan with a Last Will and Testament so your property is not subject to the confusing and complex intestate laws in Florida.