Dying Without a Will in Florida

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In Florida, a person that dies is known as the “Decedent.”

When a decedent passes and has not executed a will, or executed a will that is invalid in whole or in part; or revoked a previous will without executing a new will, the decedent is said to have “Died Intestate.”

A person may die partially testate and partially intestate if his will does not dispose of all of the assets in his probate estate.

When a person dies intestate the estate will pass to descendants through the Florida laws of intestate succession.  This means that the estate will pass through the “Default Rules” of succession as provided by the state of Florida.

Intestate succession may be the exact opposite of what the decedent would want.  The Florida default rules may leave the people that the decedent cares about most entirely in the cold, with nothing.  Meanwhile, there is the potential that others that might have been purposefully left out of a will, unknown or unfamiliar receive windfall inheritances merely as a result of being distant blood relatives of the decedent.

This can be especially complicated in individuals with children from other marriages, marriages with no shared children, and single or widowed individuals with no children or grandchildren.

The Florida laws of intestate succession can yield unusual or unexpected results that most people are entirely unaware of.

For example, if a decedent has a surviving spouse and the couple had no children or all children in common, under the Florida laws of intestate succession the surviving spouse takes the entire estate. Although this may seem exactly what you may want in death, it should nonetheless be committed to a drafted and properly executed will. Dying intestate can create additional probate challenges during an emotional time.

However, a small change can yield drastic results.  For example, if a spouse survives the decedent and the decedent has at least one outside child then the spouse takes half, and all decedent’s descendants (children or grandchildren) share only the other half equally.  By equally we refer to what the State calls, “Per Stirpes.”  So for example if the decedent had five outside children each gets 10% and the surviving spouse gets 50%.  Further, if one child is deceased, but that child has two surviving children, then those grandchildren of the decedent split the 10% that would have gone to their shared parent.

Third scenario, a person has no surviving spouse and no lineal descendants (no children or grand children), the estate is split between the surviving mother and father (per stirpes).  If there is no surviving mother or father, then to the decedents brothers and sisters (per stirpes and with pro-rata shares for half brothers and sisters!).  If no brothers or sisters, then to nieces and nephews.  Then grand nieces and nephews. Then grandparents, uncles and aunts, first cousins, first cousins once removed, first cousins twice removed, and so on. As you could imagine, the decedent likely had everyday people that cared for him, and that he cared for, that will now be entirely forgotten in death due to the lack of a properly drafted and executed will.

The chart included explains Florida’s complicated laws of intestate succession.

Of course, you can avoid all this worry, and make sure that the people that you love are taken care of in your death by calling our firm and allowing our Broward, Miami Dade and Palm Beach probate lawyers to assist you with your estate planning.

We will provide you with straight forward and easy to understand explanations of complex legal concepts with respect and compassion during the often emotional planning of your estate.

We’re changing the way people think about lawyers.

We understand that establishing a plan to care for your loved ones at your death is a stressful and emotional process for a family because we’re people.

We also happen to be Florida Wills and Trusts Attorneys.

We can help.

Our Florida wills and trusts lawyers serve clients in Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami Dade County, and most other Florida cities and counties.

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