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What happens if your parent dies without a will?

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Losing a parent is heartbreaking. The stress and sadness of the tragedy are even stronger when you find out there is no will. If there are no written instructions about how to distribute the estate, you are probably feeling a lot of confusion. 

You probably have no idea what to do about the belongings of your parent and may have concerns about who will get what. Here is a guide to what happens when someone dies without a will in Florida.

Intestate succession

The legal term of dying without a will is "dying intestate." When this happens, a process called intestate succession begins. This is when the state of Florida determines the administration of the estate. Who receives certain assets depends on whether your parent is survived by a spouse, other children, siblings, grandchildren or half relatives. A probate attorney can help you understand exactly who will receive an inheritance according to Florida estate laws

The appointment of a representative

If there is no will, your parent did not designate a person to distribute the estate. In general, the state prefers the surviving spouse to be the personal representative, also called an executor. If there is no surviving spouse or he or she does not want the responsibility, it may go to a child. If you want to become the personal representative, you should fill out the application and submit it to the probate court with legal assistance. 

Certain assets are not affected

You can have some peace of mind knowing that not every single asset will go through intestate succession. Some assets that may be exempt include the following:

  • Life insurance funds
  • Property in a living trust
  • Retirement account funds
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Jointly owned property

These assets have their own beneficiary designations. 

Dealing with the probate process can be frustrating, especially when you are dealing with emotional turmoil. However, if you take a deep breath and seek legal advice, you can manage the situation. 

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