What Happens When You Die Without a Will?
If you have any thoughts or preferences whatsoever about what should become of your property when you die, a will is essential. Simply telling your loved ones your intentions is not enough to ensure they are respected. Even writing them down in an informal manner is usually not sufficient. If you die without a valid will, your property is distributed under Florida law with no regard for your own desires or preferences.
Florida Statutes sections 732.102 and 732.103 — often called the rules of intestate succession — dictate how a person’s estate is to be allocated when there is no will in place:
- If there are no surviving children or if all surviving children are shared by the deceased and the spouse, the spouse receives the entire estate.
- If the deceased has surviving children who are not also the children of the spouse, the spouse receives half.
- Surviving children of the deceased receive equal shares of anything not taken by the spouse.
- If there are no surviving children, the parents of the deceased receive anything not taken by the spouse.
- If there are no surviving parents, the deceased’s brothers and sisters or their children receive anything not taken by the spouse.
The rules go on to designate increasingly remote branches of the family tree. The ultimate result is that, without a will, your estate could go to relatives you never met or barely know. Moreover, even if you do have a will in place, any property that it does not effectively cover is also passed through the rules of intestacy. This vividly illustrates the importance of going through the estate planning process with an experienced Florida wills and trusts attorney.