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What Happens if Someone Passes Away Without a Will?

In the event that someone passes away without a will in Florida, state intestate succession laws will dictate how assets are distributed. While the state does implement guidelines, without a will in place, only guesses can be made regarding your wishes. Additionally, a judge may be left to decide on factors such as assigning an executor of the estate as well as appointing legal guardians for surviving children.

How Is Property Divided?

How property is distributed will depend on if the departed has a spouse, children, siblings, parents, or other relatives. It is also important to note that only items eligible to be named in a will can be passed by interstate succession. Assets such as 401(k) and retirement accounts may not be affected by this process.

Typically, succession laws favor the spouse, if the deceased was married at the time of death. In most cases, a spouse will inherit either half or all of the estate. For example, if a person was married and had children from that spouse, the spouse will inherit everything. If that same person has children with another individual, the spouse will inherit half of the estate, with the remaining half to be split by the other parties. In the event that no children or spouses exist, either surviving parents or siblings become eligible to inherit an estate.

The laws in Florida are designed to transfer your property to family, but if no living relatives or extended family can be found, any property may revert to the state.

Naming an Executor

In cases where probate is necessary, a judge may appoint an executor to oversee the deceased’s estate. Typically, a court will attempt to assign the role to a close relative such as a spouse or child. This duty can fall onto the shoulders of a person who is not prepared or unable to handle the responsibility. Additionally, when two or more eligible parties cannot decide on who is the rightful executor, the dispute can leave the deceased’s assets tied up in court, costing time and money.

Children and Legal Guardianships

Children may also require special consideration. When a young child is left without their parent, a legal guardian will typically be needed. However, if there is no will or estate plan to name this person, then it can be left up to the courts to choose. While a judge will look to act in the child’s best interest, when proper planning has not been taken, there is no guarantee that the choice will be favorable.

Legal Help for Drafting a Will: Call (239) 970-6844

While many people assume that estate planning is only for the well-off or those approaching retirement, a well-drafted will can greatly benefit anyone. Not only can it help to ensure that your legacy is carried out as you intend, it can also work to ensure that your loved ones are not suddenly burdened with the responsibility of sorting and distributing your assets.

If you are considering drafting a will or other estate planning services, do not hesitate to contact Powell, Jackman, Stevens & Ricciardi, P.A. Our Fort Myers probate attorneys possess more than 50 years of combined experience and can help you to understand the full range of your legal options.

Request a free consultation today and begin planning for the future.

Categories: Estate Planning, Probate, Wills

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