Dying Intestate In Florida
Florida is one of the U.S. states with the highest population over the age of 65, and because of this, estate planning is a hot topic among the state’s attorneys. Everyone, regardless of age, should have a will – but this is especially important for those who are older, because an older person runs a higher risk of passing away without one. If someone dies without a valid will, their estate will be distributed via what is called intestate succession. Intestate succession is cut and dried, and it does mean that some of the assets may not reach the people that the deceased would have wanted to have them.
Only Certain Assets Affected
When a person in Florida dies without a will or other estate planning documents in place, intestate succession will automatically apply. Only the assets that would normally have passed via probate will be affected, which means that non-probate assets such as the proceeds of a life insurance policy, or any property that you own in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety, will pass to their intended beneficiaries because they will always do so regardless of whether there is a will or not.
Assets that would otherwise have passed via will, or in a living trust, will be disbursed by the court once the decedent’s creditors are paid off. The decedent’s creditors are paid out of the proceeds of the estate, after which any remaining assets are granted to the surviving family. The decedent’s closest family will receive the remainder of the estate, starting with the surviving spouse and children, per stirpes. The term “per stirpes” means “by the branch,” and essentially it means that every direct lineal descendant will receive an equal share of the estate (with the possible exception of the surviving spouse, who may receive more).
If the decedent has a surviving spouse, they are the first to inherit under intestate succession, and if the couple had no children, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate. If there are children, they may receive a portion of the estate, or if a child has predeceased their parent, any grandchildren may be entitled to a portion as well. The majority of those who die intestate have a surviving spouse or children, but in the event that no immediate family survives, the decedent’s parents may inherit, or their siblings. While there is a persistent myth that the state can essentially seize the assets of a deceased person, this is simply inaccurate; the only way the state can take control of someone’s estate is if they had no family of any kind, the estate then escheats, or descends, upon the state as a last resort.
Be advised that if the deceased person had children from a previous marriage, or their spouse did, it does affect the estate distribution. The deceased person’s children are direct lineal descendants, and would thus be entitled to part of the estate, leaving the surviving spouse with half. However, if the spouse has children from a previous marriage, they are not blood relations of the deceased person’s, and would not be entitled to any recovery. The surviving spouse would take the entire estate in that situation.
Call A Naples Estate Planning Attorney
The best way to avoid these potential issues is to ensure that you have a valid will in place. If you have questions, concerns or just want to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your personal legal issues in a confidential setting, contact James R. Nici, the Managing Partner of Nici Law Firm, a Naples estate planning attorney with almost 30 years of legal experience. This may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule your complimentary consultation.