Even with all of the many strong reasons to create a will, it of course happens that a parent who avoids creating a will sometimes pass on, leaving their family in confusion about what happens next. Below are a few of the basics about who inherits when a parent dies without a will in Florida. Speak to a Florida wills attorney about guidance in your specific probate matter, or to create or update a Florida will.
A Probate Court Judge Will Have to Decide Who Inherits
When a person dies without a legally valid and enforceable will in Florida (note that wills must meet legal requirements to be valid in Florida, so invalid documents or oral statements will not have legal effect), that person's estate will have to go to a probate court in most cases, even if the parent left specific instructions about their assets, which were not contained in a will.
The probate court who oversees the matter will appoint a personal representative - also called an executor - to administer the estate, but that personal representative can only distribute assets from the estate in accord with Florida intestacy law, and the judge will make the determinations of how the assets are distributed. See here for more information on The Probate Process in Florida.
The Intestacy Distribution Scheme in Florida
Through the Florida laws on intestacy, a judge will look at the living family relatives of a deceased person, and distribute the assets accordingly. Generally, if a spouse is still living, and there are no children or other lineal descendants of the deceased who are not also related to the surviving spouse (e.g. children from a previous marriage), the surviving spouse will take everything, even if they are estranged and/or separated.
If there are surviving children, and they are also children of the surviving spouse, then they will inherit nothing. But if the deceased had children by another person (not the surviving spouse), the surviving spouse will get one-half the assets, and the children will share in the rest. If there is no surviving spouse, but there are lineal descendants, the lineal descendants will inherit.
If the deceased had no surviving spouse or lineal descendants (children or grandchildren), then the court will award the estate to any surviving parents of the deceased. If no parents are living, then there is a priority of other family members who might inherit, including siblings, nephews and nieces, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.
On top of this resulting in gifts that go to family members the deceased might not have intended to benefit (and not benefiting those he did intend to benefit), this process can cause significant delay and fees, especially when family members argue about how assets should be valued and divided amongst parties.
This process can be avoided by creating a legally valid will in Florida.
Contact Florida Wills Attorney Ryan Mynard Today About Creating Your Will or Codicil
To being the process of creating or updating a Florida will or codicil - or to speak about any estate planning questions or concerns you have - contact Florida estate planning attorney Ryan Mynard at 850-683-3940 today to get started.