What if You Die Without a Will in Florida? Who Inherits Your Property?
How your family will inherit property after you die without a will depends on your state’s intestacy laws. Unless you have an estate plan where you choose your beneficiaries to avoid Florida’s intestacy laws, your property will be passed to your heirs in two different ways:
- Outside of probate (by operation of law or contract law)
- Through probate administration (the court-supervised process)
You are not legally required to have an estate plan, but then the state of Florida may determine how your assets are distributed through “intestacy.” It also may require that your loved ones be stuck in a year-long probate administration, which could be easily avoided. You should create an estate plan to protect your assets, your family, and ensure that your wishes are followed at your death.
How to Avoid Probate and Florida Intestacy Laws?
Unless you want the state of Florida to decide who will inherit your property after your death, you should take the time to create your estate plans. The Florida intestacy statutes essentially follow what the most “typical” family would want, but that is not the case for everyone.
A personalized estate plan allows you to choose your beneficiary and create more peace of mind. By establishing a plan, you could:
- Pass property outside of probate;
- Avoid Florida’s intestacy laws; and
- Decide who will inherit your property.
When Do You Need a Will?
If you do not have a valid Will upon death, your property will pass to heirs via the court-supervised probate process, which can be rather expensive, lengthy, and cause conflicts among your surviving family members.
A Last Will and Testament is one of the foundational documents in a common estate plan. Wills generally accomplish the following:
- Distribute assets and property in your preferred manner;
- Leave a legacy to future generations;
- Name a guardian for your minor children; and
- Appoint a Personal Administrator (also known as Executor in other states) of your estate.
Before admitting the Will to probate, the court will first determine whether the document is valid. If you have an invalid will (i.e., it is not validly executed or it is a “holographic” will, which is a handwritten Will that is not witnessed), Florida law will apply to your assets and your estate is now intestate.
Who Gets Your Property Without a Will?
You may be wondering how your property will be divided between your heirs if you die without a valid Will in Florida. Generally, Florida’s intestacy statute are as follows:
- If you are survived by a spouse with no children from another relationship, then your probate estate goes to the spouse.
- If you are survived by a spouse but have children from another relationship (or your surviving spouse has children from another relationship), then the surviving spouse gets 50% of the probate estate, and the remaining 50% is distributed to your descendants.
- If you are not survived by a spouse, then your probate estate goes to your descendants.
- If you are not survived by a spouse or descendants, then your parents inherit your probate estate.
- If you are not survived by a spouse, descendants, or parents, then your siblings will inherit your probate estate.
Only in the event that no living blood relatives (or blood relatives of a deceased spouse) would your probate estate “escheat” to the state of Florida. In fact, if the above-mentioned family members are not alive at the time of your death, more remote relatives will be identified to inherit your property if you die without a Will.
Needless to say, it is advised to have a comprehensive estate plan to make sure that your property and assets are inherited by your loved ones and do not pass through Florida’s intestacy laws. Let our St. Petersburg estate planning lawyers help you create an estate plan today. Contact Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP, at 727-471-5868 to schedule a consultation.