It’s all too easy to put off writing your will. Nobody wants to think about what will happen – and who will get what – when they are gone.

But if you don’t make those decisions today, you may be surprised – and potentially disappointed – by what will happen in the future if you die without a will.

There’s actually a term for dying without a will – it’s called “intestate.” Should this happen to you, your estate (made up of all your remaining assets) will have to go through probate.

What is probate?

Probate is the process in which the court determines how your estate is distributed. Once all your assets have been ascertained and all your debts have been paid, the court will then divide the remaining assets among your beneficiaries.

Who are my beneficiaries?

If you don’t have a will in place when you die, you obviously haven’t designated any beneficiaries. Therefore, your beneficiaries will be determined by Florida law.

The people who are eligible to be beneficiaries of your estate will be your descendants – your spouse, children, grandchildren, parents and siblings.

There are a number of beneficiary options depending on whether you are single, married, or married with children. Let’s take a look at the possibilities:

  • Single without children: If you are single and don’t have any children, all your assets will go to your parents. If your parents are no longer alive, it will then go to your brothers and sisters in equal shares. What if you don’t have any descendants? Your estate will go to the state of Florida.
  • Single with children: If you are not married but have children, your children will inherit your estate in equal portions.
  • Married without children: In this case, your spouse would inherit everything.
  • Married with children: Assuming you and your spouse are the children’s biological parents, your spouse would inherit your estate. If your spouse is not the biological parent of your children, your spouse would inherit half of your estate, and your biological children would inherit the other half in equal shares.
  • Married with step children: Under Florida law, your step children are not eligible to inherit any portion of your estate.

Do you want the state of Florida to determine who inherits your estate? If not, you should make it a priority to complete your will so that you can choose your beneficiaries.