What Are the Potential Consequences of Dying Intestate in Florida?

What Are the Intestate Laws in Florida?

Estate planning is a crucial process determining the succession of your assets and property after you die. Lawyers from civil law firms in Florida encourage residents to plan their estates as early as possible, not in anticipation of death, but to ensure their estates pass on to the right people and in the right way.

Unfortunately, some people die without a Will, also known as dying intestate. Without expressing how they would like their assets to be handled in their absence, intestate laws kick in, and probate courts dictate the estate succession. Skilled lawyers provide an overview of what would happen to your estate if you died intestate.

How Do Intestate Laws Work?

Your estate will undergo probate if you die without a Will. The first step is for the court to identify all the surviving family members to determine who will inherit the property. The probate court also appoints a personal representative to manage the estate during probate. The representative is often a trusted friend or family member entrusted with the tasks of:

  • Identifying and collecting all the assets due for distribution
  • Calculating and paying off any outstanding debts
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries

The process is often lengthy and time-consuming. Estate planning attorneys in Florida can work with the personal representative to help them navigate the probate process. A lawyer's input is also necessary to ensure the assets are distributed fairly and cost-effectively.

Who Inherits What?

Once the surviving family members have been identified, the estate is distributed in priority of their closeness to the decedent. In most cases, just one person or group of people qualify to inherit intestate property:

  • The decedent's spouse inherits everything if there are no children left behind
  • The spouse inherits 50% of the estate, and the other half goes to the decedent's children, if any
  • The surviving children or adopted children inherit the entire estate if the decedent’s spouse is dead
  • The estate goes to the decedent's parents if there are no children or spouse
  • The estate goes to the decedent's siblings in the absence of a surviving spouse, children, or parents
  • The estate goes to the grandparents if there are no surviving children, parents, spouses, or siblings
  • Uncles, aunties, or cousins could inherit the estate if there are no surviving children, spouses, parents, siblings, or grandparents
  • The state takes over the estate if the court can't identify any surviving family members

There could be additional factors or possibilities, such as children from previous relationships, grandchildren, or children of deceased siblings. Experienced estate planning lawyers in Florida can provide more insights.

What Assets Are Affected by Intestate Laws in Florida?

Not all assets are subject to intestacy laws. Only those you would have included in a Will if you had created one. Generally, the following types of property are excluded in a Will and would, therefore, not be subject to intestacy during probate:

  • Jointly owned property, including real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and anything else you own with another person in joint tenancy
  • Properties placed in a trust
  • Assets in a retirement account
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Assets in a bank account where you have designated a payable-on-death beneficiary
  • Securities in a brokerage account with named beneficiaries

The named beneficiaries automatically inherit these assets without undergoing the probate process. Estate planning attorneys in Florida can help you plan your estate distribution using various estate planning tools.

What Happens to My Minor Children if I Die Without a Will?

Florida inheritance laws stipulate that if you die without a Will and have minor children, the surviving biological parent becomes their sole guardian and gets their custody. A family member can file a petition requesting to be granted guardianship. That gives them sole custody of the children without a surviving biological parent.

If you have minor children, it's crucial to have a Will outlining how you would like them to be cared for and by whom when you're gone. The court doesn't have to approve the person you choose, but as long as they are qualified, it's likely the judge will approve them.

How Can I Protect My Estate From Intestacy?

Your estate will be subjected to the lengthy and complicated probate process if you die without a Will. It will also be vulnerable to creditors who may lay a claim to recover outstanding debts. Predators may also try to exploit the situation to defraud the estate.

Consult lawyers from a Florida civil litigation law firm to help you plan your estate to avoid such a situation. Creating a Will is an effective method of ensuring your property is handled according to your wishes. Your lawyers can work with you to create a Will tailored to your needs. They can also oversee the succession process once you're gone to minimize the risk of fraud or abuse.

An Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer Helping You Plan for Your Future to Protect Your Loved Ones

After reviewing the intestate laws in Florida, you may want to create an estate plan that adequately caters to your needs and prevents your loved ones from probate. You can do this by arranging your assets so they fall outside the scope of intestate laws. That would entail naming beneficiaries for all your titles, deeds, accounts, and other assets.

Alternatively, you could create a Will with the help of skilled estate planning lawyers at The Dellutri Law Group, PA. We are a forward-thinking law firm dedicated to helping clients create a family protection plan. Let us evaluate your goals and wishes and help you plan accordingly. Call us at 800-391-4337 for a free consultations.