Why Should I Avoid Intestate Succession (Dying Without A Will) In Florida?
Many Florida residents put off estate planning until it is too late. Of course, some people reason it does not matter anyway. After all, doesn’t Florida law decide what happens to a person’s property after they and do not leave a will? For many people, they figure it is just easier to let the law deal with it.
That certainly is an option. But intestate succession–the legal term for the probate of an estate where the deceased left no will–has a number of potential drawbacks that people fail to consider. Here is just a brief overview of some of the reasons you might want to make a will and other estate planning documents while you still have the time.
No Will Means No Control Over Who Gets Your Assets
Intestate succession creates a set of legal “defaults” for who should inherit a person’s property. Essentially, these defaults look for the person’s next of kin. To give a simple example, if Jody was unmarried, had three children, and died without leaving a will, Florida intestate succession law would divide her probate estate equally among those three children.
The potential drawback here is that the law makes no distinction between the children. In other words, it does not matter if one child was especially close to Jody while another was completely estranged. Inheritance rights under intestate succession are the same for all children regardless of the parent’s relationship or wishes.
Who Will Care for Your Minor Children?
Making a will is not just about dividing up your property. If you have minor children, and the other parent does not survive you for any reason, a Florida court will look to your will to see if you have nominated anyone to serve as the legal guardian for your children until they reach the age of 18. Ultimately, it is up to a judge to decide this issue, but your wishes will be taken into account. Absent any guidance, the court may end up granting custody of your children to someone you think might be unfit or ill-suited to the role.
It Is Possible The State Will Take Your Property
In rare cases, it is possible for a probate estate to escheat, or be turned over to the State of Florida. This only occurs when a decedent left no will and there are no living relatives of the decedent who can be identified as heirs. So if you are unmarried, living alone, and have no known family members still living, it is imperative you have a will to prevent what property you do own from being claimed by the state.
Having a Will Is About Having Peace of Mind
Ultimately, it is in everyone’s best interests to make a valid will. It ensures your wishes are known and can be carried out after your death. If you need advice from an experienced St. Petersburg estate planning lawyer, contact Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP, today to schedule a consultation.