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
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.