A random poll of Naples residents about the importance of accumulating assets in order to pass them on to their loved ones would likely reveal that most view such action as being important. However, the actions of many suggest that actually stipulating how such assets are to be distributed is not deemed to be as important. Indeed, information compiled by Gallup shows that less than half of American adults do not have a will.

Some may not have thoroughly engaged in the estate planning process yet because they are unsure of what the consequences may be if they avoid it. If by chance, it were left up to one’s heirs to decide how to divide up their estate if they never create a will, some may view that as being preferable. Unfortunately, that does not happen. The estate of one who dies intestate (without a will) suddenly becomes subject to state law.

Florida’s guidelines regarding intestate succession can be found in Chapter 732 of the state’s Probate Code. Here it states that the spouse of one who dies without a will is entitled to their entire estate if they leave behind no lineal descendants of it their descendants are also those of the spouse. If they are not (or the spouse has descendants that are not also the descendants of the decedent), the spouse’s share of the estate is reduced to one-half.

Any portion of the estate not going to the spouse would then be distributed in the following order:

  • To descendants
  • To parents
  • To siblings (and their descendants)
  • To their paternal and maternal kindred (with each side receiving an equal share)

If one leaves behind no such relatives but did have a spouse from whom they were separated, the ex-spouse would then be entitled to their estate.