Undoubtedly in your lifetime someone has probably told you that you need a will. It’s a lot less probable that they’ve told you why. What really happens to your assets if you die without a will? The short answer is intestacy. A person who dies without a will is said to be intestate.

Many believe that without a will your assets will be turned over to the State of Florida. However, that is not likely. The state will take the decedent’s assets only if the decedent died without heirs. The decedent’s heirs are relatives of the decedent and described in the Florida statute governing distribution of the probate assets of a decedent who died intestate.

According to Florida Statutes, the probate assets of a decedent who dies intestate passes to their heirs in the following order:

  1. The probate assets of a decedent who is survived by a spouse and has no living descendants pass to directly to the surviving spouse.
  2. The probate assets of a decedent who is survived by a spouse and has living descendants (who must be shared by both the decedent and surviving spouse) pass directly to the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse can have no living descendants who are not descendant of the decedent for this to occur.
  3. One-half of the probate assets of a decedent who is survived by a spouse, has living descendants (who must be shared by both the decedent and surviving spouse), and if the surviving spouse has other living descendants who are not descendant of the decedent, passes to the surviving spouse. The other half is shared among the decedent’s descendants.
  4. The probate assets of an unmarried decedent pass directly to their descendants. If more than one descendant survives the decedent, the probate assets are split among them in accordance with Florida law.
  5. The probate assets of an unmarried decedent with no surviving descendants pass directly to their surviving parents. If the decedent is not survived by either parent, the assets pass to the decedent’s siblings.
  6. The probate assets of an unmarried decedent with no surviving descendants and no close surviving relatives will be passed to remote relatives, if possible, before the state.
  7. If there are no possible heirs to which the probate assets may pass, the state will acquire the estate.

Most of us would like our accumulated assets to pass to those whom we personally designate. This is why it is vital to have a valid will to make sure you have control over the future of your estate after your lifetime. If not, an experienced probate attorney will be needed to help determine the distribution of probate assets.

The Kendrick Law Group’s knowledgeable attorneys provide a variety of legal services related to wills and estates, including probate and drafting estate planning documents. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and learn how our attorneys can help you.