If you die without a will, your assets will be divided according to Florida’s inheritance law. A process called probate occurs, in which the court system decides how to distribute your assets for a pricey fee.
To avoid this, the best option is to have our elder law attorneys help you create a will. If you choose not to write a will, here’s what can happen. Please contact us with any additional questions.
Dying Without a Will
Your surviving spouse will receive preference over all surviving relatives, no matter your intentions. In fact, if you have no parents or descendants, your surviving spouse will be the sole heir of your estate. However, intestate law becomes more nuanced if you are leaving behind parents and descendents.
Surviving Spouse and Parent
If you have a surviving spouse and parent, your spouse will take the first share of the estate along with three-quarters of the remaining balance after debts and probate fees are paid. One-quarter of the estate’s final value will go to your surviving parent.
Surviving Spouse and Descendents
If you have a surviving spouse and descendants, your spouse will still receive the first share of your estate. However, the value of this share will depend on whether your surviving children were shared by your spouse. Once the first share is distributed, the remaining balance of your estate will be equally divided between your surviving spouse and children. The amount of the first share is indexed annually under Florida law for cost-of-living increases.
No Surviving Spouse
If you don’t have a surviving spouse, your estate will be distributed in the following order:
- No surviving spouse: assets go to descendants
- No surviving descendants: assets go to parents
- No surviving descendants or parents: assets go to siblings, nieces or nephews, and great-nieces or great-nephews
If you don’t have any of the surviving relatives listed above, your assets will be split in half between your maternal and paternal grandparents and their descendants. In other words, your assets will be divided amongst your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. If there are no grandparents or descendants available to take the assets on one side of the family, the value of the entire estate would pass to the other side of the family.
There is also a complex system under Florida law for determining how assets are divided among surviving relatives. There are also exclusionary rules designed to prevent distant relatives from inheriting the value of your estate.
What happens if a family member dies without a will?
If a family member dies without a last will and testament, you’ll want to hire a probate lawyer as soon as possible. Probate court proceedings can be complicated, which is why you’ll want a probate attorney experienced in elder law.
Who can help make a will?
Even if you wish to write a simple will, it’s still a good idea to hire an estate planning attorney. Our attorney can recognize inconsistencies and loopholes that could lead to family members contesting a will. We recommend making a will with your attorney present so they can advise you on how to legally express your final wishes.
Although it can be overwhelming to think about preparing a will, we can help. Our estate planning attorneys are proud to serve clients in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and Naples. To request a free consultation with one of our Florida estate planning lawyers, call Lusk, Drasites, & Tolisano P.A. at (800) 283-7442.