A Last Will and Testament allows people to document their wishes for both the end of their life and after their death. Whether due to a fear of planning for later in life, procrastination or more, many pass away without detailing their wishes for their estates.
When someone passes away in Florida without a will, Florida’s intestate succession law governs where and to whom the property and assets of the deceased will go. The term “intestate” refers to dying without creating a will. While in many cases the state may divide property in accordance with how the deceased would have distributed it, the distribution can quickly become complicated, especially when heirs involve blended families or few family members.
How the Florida Probate Code divides estates
Florida law first distributes property and assets to heirs including immediate family members, such as a spouse and descendants. Descendants can include children or grandchildren. This can involve the following scenarios:
- Survived by a spouse and descendants. In this case, the spouse inherits 100% of the estate.
- Survived by a spouse and no descendants. The spouse again inherits 100% of the estate in this scenario.
- Survived by a spouse and descendants, some of whom are not descendants of the spouse. Here, if the deceased had children from a prior relationship, the surviving spouse inherits half of the estate while the descendants inherit the remaining half.
- Survived by a spouse and descendants, some of whom are descendants of the spouse but not the deceased. If the surviving spouse has children from a prior relationship, the spouse inherits half of the estate while the descendants of the deceased inherit the remaining half.
- Survived by descendants and no spouse. In this case, the descendants will inherit 100% of the estate.
What happens when someone dies without a spouse or descendants?
When someone dies without a spouse, children or grandchildren in Florida, their estate will go to other surviving family members. This will occur in the order of parents, siblings, children of siblings and so on.
While Florida’s intestate succession laws provide a reasonable process to divide an estate in many cases, such laws can also create hostility among heirs. Creating an estate plan while you are young and healthy is the best way to ensure your estate will be divided fairly and your family will be cared for.