For many people, putting off unpleasant tasks comes as a natural instinct, especially when the task in question does not seem all that urgent. Unfortunately, making a will often falls into this category.
When a Florida resident dies without a will, his or her estate will enter probate as an intestate estate. This means the court appoints an administrator and distributes the estate’s assets according to the provisions of Florida’s intestacy laws. If you did not leave a will, this typically happens even if you otherwise expressed your preferences for distribution.
The intestate estate
The intestate estate includes all assets that enter probate. Generally, this includes assets to which the decedent held the sole title. Living trusts, jointly owned assets and insurance proceeds may end up not forming part of the estate.
Spouses and descendants
If a person passes away and leaves a spouse but no descendants, the whole estate goes to the spouse; other relatives, such as siblings, get nothing. The converse happens if the decedent leaves only descendants and no spouse. If the decedent leaves behind a spouse and descendants who are all descendants of the couple, the estate again goes wholly to the spouse. When the survivors include a spouse as well as descendants who are only descendants of the decedent, the spouse gets half and the decedent’s descendants get half. The spouse also only gets half not only if there are mutual descendants but also if there are descendants belonging solely to the surviving spouse.
When no spouse or descendants survive, the estate passes to the parents. If there are no parents, the estate goes to siblings. Half siblings get half of a normal share.
While these laws may sound fairly straightforward, complicated probate litigation often ensues, with various prospective heirs fighting about their shares. Litigation can tie up assets and deplete the estate, leaving less for everyone.
Other reasons your estate can end up intestate
While most intestate estates happen because the decedent never made a will, this situation can also arise if the court deems an existing will invalid. Sometimes, a person destroys a will intending to make a new one and never gets around to it.