Who Inherits When There is No Will in Florida?
Understanding Inheritance Rules Without a Will in Florida
The absence of a will can lead to uncertainty about the fate of one’s property in the event of death. In Florida, dying intestate (without a will) does not mean the state seizes your assets. Instead, specific rules dictate how the deceased’s estate will be distributed among surviving family members. While having a will is essential for ensuring control over one’s estate, understanding the legally mandated order of distribution can help individuals make informed decisions. This article outlines Florida’s inheritance rules in cases of intestacy, highlighting the significance of consulting an experienced attorney for estate planning.
Distribution of an Intestate Estate in Florida
Deceased’s Spouse: If a surviving spouse exists, their share of the estate depends on the presence of other surviving heirs, such as children or grandchildren. If the spouse is the sole surviving family member, they inherit all assets and liabilities. Former spouses, unless specifically named in the will, are not entitled to inherit from the estate.
Other Heirs: In scenarios involving surviving children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren alongside a surviving spouse, the spouse inherits half of the estate, while the remaining heirs share the other half. The spouse also gains ownership of bank accounts in joint tenancy and insurance policies where they are named as beneficiaries. Children from previous marriages are considered heirs and inherit half of the property, while the surviving spouse receives the other half.
Children as Survivors in Florida
In the absence of a surviving spouse, only surviving children come into consideration for inheritance. Legally adopted children have the right to inherit, while children given up for adoption or stepchildren who were never legally adopted or fostered do not have inheritance rights. Children born outside of marriage may be eligible for inheritance if paternity is established through acknowledgment or DNA testing.
Grandchildren as Survivors in Florida
Grandchildren can inherit from a Florida estate only if their parents were legally established heirs and are deceased.
Dying Intestate Without Family in Florida
The State of Florida makes every effort to locate surviving family members, even distant relatives. However, if no eligible family members are found, the state claims the assets and liabilities of the estate.
While Florida’s courts have specific rules for inheritance in cases of intestacy, this can result in distribution decisions being made by the state rather than the estate owner. To retain control over their estate and ensure that their wishes are followed, discussing an estate plan with a knowledgeable attorney is highly recommended. By doing so, individuals can make well-informed choices, protect their assets, and secure the financial well-being of their loved ones.