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Dying Without a Will: What You Need to Know

Having a will is a foundational part of your estate plan. It outlines your wishes for handling your possessions and financial affairs after you pass away. However, what happens if you don’t have a will? Your estate and possessions will be distributed to eligible beneficiaries, but they will follow different guidelines than if you died with a will. Learn what happens if you die without a will in Florida below. 

Florida’s Intestate Laws 

When you pass away without a will, your estate is called “intestate.” Florida has set up a standard procedure to divide assets for intestate estates. It’s essentially a templated will that your estate can follow to distribute your possessions. Florida’s intestate laws and regulations are described in Chapter 732 of the Florida Statutes. These laws guide the probate court through the process of distributing your estate to your relatives if you pass away without a will. 

Intestate Line of Succession 

Your possessions are distributed equally to eligible beneficiaries when you die without a will, as stated in Florida’s intestate laws. This line of succession disregards any sentimental value or established relationships you have. It just divides the value of your estate equally to eligible beneficiaries. Your family isn’t able to choose how assets are distributed. Here’s how the line of succession works in Florida: 

Surviving Spouse 

Your surviving spouse is the first in the line of succession. If all of your children are from the same marriage and you are married when you die (or you’re married without children), your spouse will get your entire estate. If you have children from a previous relationship or marriage, your spouse will receive 50% of the estate, and your children will divide the other 50%.

Children

If you aren’t married when you pass away, your biological and adoptive children split your estate evenly. If one of your children passes away but you have surviving grandchildren, they will receive that child’s share in the estate. Please note: stepchildren aren’t entitled to shares of the estate according to intestate laws. Having a will is the best way to give a share of your estate to your stepchildren. 

Parents 

If you pass away without a surviving spouse or children, your estate will go to your parents or grandparents. 

Siblings and Their Children

If you have no spouse, children, or surviving parents, your estate will be split among your brothers and sisters. Without surviving siblings, your estate will be passed on to any living nieces or nephews. 

Other Blood Relatives 

If no relatives in the list above are alive at the time of your death, your estate will be inherited by your next closest blood relative. These relatives can reside in Florida, another state, or another country. Full-blood relatives are entitled to larger shares of the estate than half-blood relatives. 

What Happens to Your Kids if You Die Without a Will? 

If you pass away and have minor children (under 18) living with you at home, their surviving biological parent will become their sole guardian. If the other parent has also passed away, a family member may petition to become the guardian of your children.

Will My Assets Go to the State If I Don’t Have a Will?

The only scenario where your entire estate would become government property (called “escheat”) is if you pass away without a will and no one is eligible to receive your assets based on the line of succession described above. For your assets to go to the state, you must have no surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, or any blood relative. While your estate could be turned over to the state, it’s unlikely. 

How Can You Avoid an Intestate Probate? 

Several estate planning tools will help prevent your estate from becoming intestate. These include having a valid will, establishing a trust, making necessary beneficiary designations, and much more. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create a comprehensive estate plan that helps you avoid your estate going through intestate probate. 

Who Will be in Charge of My Estate? 

A personal representative is someone you usually appoint in your will to help execute your estate and distribute your assets. If you die without a will and don’t have a personal representative appointed, the probate judge will designate someone to manage the estate on your behalf. 

Create a Will and Avoid Intestate Probate 

Dying without a will adds unnecessary stress and complications to your family during a highly emotional time of grieving. Probate proceedings are technical and complex, and not having a will makes handling the estate more complicated. Conflicts between family members can also arise, as assets are divided to beneficiaries with no regard for your wishes or relationships with your family and close friends. Creating a will is the best way to avoid these problems. Contact our Daytona Beach estate planning attorneys to get started drafting your will. Call our office at 386-255-1925 for a free consultation. 

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