There are many reasons why a person may die without a will. One of the most common is that no one wants to face their mortality and it is hard to avoid that if you are planning what happens with your estate when you die. Another is that you don’t think your estate has enough value to need a will or it would cost more to have one prepared than your estate is worth. Another common reason is that you assume that if you die without a will, your spouse gets everything and will then divide it among your children.
The truth is that if you die without a will, Florida state law has essentially made one for you. The Florida law of intestate succession specifies who gets what, and how much of it, when you die.
Here is a brief summary of what happens when you probate an estate in Florida if you die without a will:
The simplest scenario involves two spouses with no other surviving descendants (for example, they have no children together who are still alive or have some other combination of a blended family such as stepchildren). In this case, the surviving spouse gets the entire intestate estate. If there are children as mentioned above, the surviving spouse’s share diminishes according to the specific situation.
Other than that scenario, this is the order in which the entire estate would pass:
(1) To descendants of the decedent (deceased person) (could include children of any marriage, children of the decedent whose mother was not married to the decedent and even legally adopted children)
(2) If there are no descendants, the entire estate goes to the decedent’s mother and father in equal shares, or if only one of them is alive, all goes to that parent
(3) If no one in classes (1) or (2) is alive, then the entire estate goes to the decedent’s siblings or to the children of those siblings if he or she has died
While this list may seem comprehensive of every possible family dynamic, there are several others scenario defined in Florida law. Due to the complexity of the intestate succession law in Florida, the best way to make sure that your estate goes to whom you desire is to plan your estate ahead of time with the assistance of a Florida estate planning attorney.