Estate Planning Law

Passing Away Without a Will in Florida, What Happens to Your Estate?

It is a common question among many of our clients:  What will happen if I die without a will?  Well, in this article, we are going to talk about the issues surrounding what happens to a person’s estate when he or she dies without a will. Contrary to what many people think, the State of Florida generally will not take your estate if you die without a will. 

Rather, if you pass away without a will, then you will be said to have died “intestate.”  That means that Florida’s Intestacy statutes will dictate how your estate is distributed.  If you don’t want the State of Florida and the Florida inheritance law to make choices as to how your assets are to be distributed, then you would be wise to consult with experienced wills & trusts attorneys so you can create a will.

At Doane & Doane, PA, we are passionate about giving our clients the personalized legal counsel they need to appropriately take care of many major life and death decisions, such as estate planning.

So, to answer your estate planning questions, we welcome you to consider contacting us at Doane & Doane, PA for estate planning advice and services.  You can contact us today at 561-656-0200 or fill out our online contact form.

The Basics on Asset Distribution When You Die Without a Will

In the State of Florida, if you pass away without a will, then the court will look to Florida inheritance law to distribute your assets in the following order:

1.  Spouse
2. Children or Grandchildren
3. Parents
4.  Siblings
5.  Children of Deceased Siblings

Here’s how it works:

In Florida, if you die without a will, and you’re married, your spouse will get all of your estate assets, even if you have children. However, if you have children from a previous relationship, your spouse will only inherit half of your estate, and your children will inherit the other half. 

If you have a child that was adopted or born in wedlock, they have the same legal right to inherit their share of your estate, as do any of your children born after your death.

Ex-spouses will not be able to inherit any of your estates under Florida inheritance law unless it is clearly stated in your estate planning documents that you want them to remain an heir of your estate. 

What if I Pass Away Without a Will and Don’t Have a Surviving Spouse or Children?

If you die intestate and don’t have a surviving spouse or children, then the Florida court will attempt to determine if you have any siblings or parents who are still alive.  If your parents are alive, they will receive your entire estate.  If you only have surviving siblings and/or half-siblings, the Florida court will then divide your estate equally between them.  If any of your siblings have passed away, their children will get the sibling’s share. 

Additionally, if the Florida court cannot find any distant or close relatives, your estate will then pass or “escheat” to the State of Florida.  That means that the government will get everything. This is a very rare occurrence. 

What Happens to My Minor Children if I Die Without a Will in Florida?

Under Florida inheritance law, if you die without a will and have any minor children, then the surviving biological parent will be sole guardian and will get custody of your child.  If your minor children don’t have any surviving biological parents, a member of your family can petition the court for guardianship and gain sole custody of your children. 

If you have minor children, having a will and other estate planning documents is important.  With a will, you can choose who the guardian for your children.  

Keep in mind, a Florida judge does not have to approve who you choose, but as long as the person you chose is qualified, the judge will more than likely approve them. The person designated to take care of your minor children is a decision you should make, not the Florida court system.

Can Someone from Another Country Inherit My Assets if I Die Without a Will in Florida? 

The short answer is yes.  The location of your beneficiaries isn’t an issue under Florida Inheritance law.  Even if your beneficiary is living in a country such as Cuba, they can inherit your assets in the State of Florida. 

The key is for the parties involved to get the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Why Relying on Florida’s Intestacy Laws May Not Be a Good Idea

Florida law is completely blind when it comes to blood bonds.  It could be that you are estranged from all of your living relatives and want your estate to go to a good friend, partner, charity, or even your pet.  This can and will not happen unless you have a will and/or other estate planning documents. 

Look to Doane & Doane for Help with Your Estate Planning Options

Founded in 2003 by husband and wife legal team, Randell C. Doane and Rebecca G. Doane, Doane & Doane provides legal and financial services to families, individuals, and businesses throughout Southeast Florida.

Estate planning is about much more than just giving away property.  It is an act of love and kindness, with the ultimate goal of providing for the future financial security of your loved one.  At Doane & Doane, our Wills and Trusts Attorneys in West Palm Beach help people plan for retirement, make provisions for loved ones, figure out future child support, and minimize tax liability.  Experienced wills and trusts attorneys know which tools to use to get the best results for their clients.  Our lawyers can help you determine which tools are best suited to your specific circumstances.

When it comes to probate matters, such as the formal administration of an estate, Florida fiduciaries seek the assistance of the attorneys at Doane & Doane, P.A. to administer and manage their trusts and estates.  Notably, the founding partners of Doane & Doane are board-certified West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys.  With the additional advantage of certified public accountancy in their backgrounds, they present a unique combination of skills and experience which enables them to effectively settle, administer, and manage clients’ trusts and estates.

Call us at Doane & Doane, P.A., to help you if you are faced with a probate matter, or if you would like estate planning services in Florida.  You can reach us at 561-656-0200.  Call us today.

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.