What Happens to Your Estate if You Die Without a Will in Florida?
Think only the rich or people with children need wills? To protect your loved ones if something happens to you, it is profoundly important to have at least a basic, formal will that dictates how you want your estate to be distributed upon your death. This ensures that your property and assets are disseminated according to your wishes.
What happens if you die in Florida without a will (also known as intestate)? In such a case, the state would distribute your property among your heirs according to the laws of intestate succession.
Let’s break it down:
State laws may vary slightly, but the typical scheme of most states, including Florida (§732.101 to §732.111), is that intestate property passes in this order: spouse, descendants (children or grandchildren), parents, siblings (and children of deceased siblings).
In Florida, if you are married when you die and have no will, your spouse will inherit everything, even if you have children together. However, if you have children from previous marriages or relationships, then your spouse will inherit half your estate and all of your children will share the remaining half, including any children you had with that spouse.
If one of your children is deceased at the time of your death, then any child or children born to that deceased child will inherit their share of your estate.
Children born out of wedlock and adopted children have the same legal right to inherit a parent’s property under intestacy laws as biological and marital children, as do “posthumous” children born after the decedent’s death.
But ex-spouses cannot inherit, so your estate is safe from them. If you die while unmarried and have surviving children, then those children (or their descendants) split your whole estate.
What if you die with no surviving spouse or children? Then the court will determine if you have surviving parents or siblings. Your surviving parents or parent will get everything. If you are survived only by siblings, even half-siblings, they will share your estate equally, and if deceased, their children will take their share.
If the court can track down no close or even distant relatives who can inherit your property, then your estate will escheat to the state, which basically means the government takes everything; however, this is fairly rare.
Reasons Why You May Not Want To Rely on Intestate Succession
There are all kinds of scenarios that could make the foregoing estate distribution schemes problematic:
What if you have a spouse and an adult child with a different partner, but you are estranged from him and want your spouse to inherit all your property? Without a will, half of your estate would go to that estranged child without regard to the nature of your relationship with him. (In nearly all states, testators are permitted to disinherit grown children in their wills.)
What if you have no surviving spouse, offspring, or parents but three siblings, one of whom you are close to and two that you barely know or don’t know? Under state intestacy law, your property would be divided equally among all three surviving siblings. This holds true even if some of them are half-blood (you have one parent in common).
The law is truly blind when it comes to blood bonds.
In still other scenarios, you might be estranged from all your living relatives and wish your property to be bequeathed to your favorite charity, go to a dear friend, or even be put in trust for your beloved pet. That can’t happen without a carefully drafted will.
Naturally, the above outcomes might not be appealing to you, which is why it’s so important to draft a last will and testament with the aid of a skilled Florida estate attorney.
Contact an Experienced Florida Wills & Estates Lawyer
To ensure your property is distributed at your death according to your wishes, it is vital to have the counsel of a respected and experienced Florida estate planning attorney who understands that these are sensitive and emotional matters. Tampa estate planning attorney David Toback has vast experience drafting wills for Floridians and can advise you on how to dispose of your assets in the way you choose. Call our offices today to schedule a confidential consultation.