What happens if I die without a will in Florida?

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When you die, your last will and testament will determine how your personal representative distributes your assets. But what happens if you don’t have a will? If you die without a will, then you are “intestate,” meaning the probate court will distribute your assets to your family according to a predefined algorithm described below.
If you die intestate, then your spouse, if living, usually has the first claim on your estate, but not always. If neither you nor your spouse had children with somebody else, such as a prior spouse, then your spouse would receive your entire estate. If you had children with somebody other than your spouse, these children would be eligible for half of your estate; if your spouse had children with somebody other than you, then half of your assets would be reserved for whoever’s next in line. If you were never legally married to your spouse, then your spouse would have no claim to any of your assets.
After your spouse, your children have the next claim to your assets. All of your children, living and dead, will receive equal portions of your estate not allocated to your spouse. If a dead child receives some of your estate, his portion will trickle down to his children (your grandchildren).
If you have no living children or grandchildren, your parents are next in line. They will equally split your estate if they are still alive. If not, your assets will be split among your siblings, living and dead. Assets allocated to a dead sibling will trickle down to that sibling’s children (your nieces and nephews). If you have no living siblings, nieces, or nephews, your assets may go to your grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other relatives.
If you have no living eligible family members when you die intestate, your estate would escheat. This means that the Florida government would auction your estate and send all proceeds to the State School Fund.
Many Floridians neglect the subtleties of these rules when deciding to postpone getting a will. They assume that their partner will receive their entire estate should they die, but in many cases, intestate laws would send half or all of their assets to their other relatives. If they are single or widowed, they assume that their living children will evenly split their estate, but under Florida intestate laws, grandchildren may receive a portion. They also underestimate the chances that their property will escheat to the state, because they neglect to think of situations in which several possible heirs die with them, like a fatal car crash during a family vacation. This failure to plan hinders Floridians from controlling their post mortem finances. Rather than depend on the prewritten formula of Florida’s intestate laws to execute your last wishes for your estate, you should contact an experienced estate planning law firm, such as The Akin Law Firm, to schedule a consultation. We can create a personalized will that will intelligently distribute your assets. For more information, contact our firm at 386-738-5599.

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