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When a loved one passes away, it can certainly be an overwhelming time. Are you aware of the processes to legally transfer property owned by the deceased? Essentially, whether or not your deceased loved one has left behind a Will, it is likely that you will need to probate their estate to legally transfer their property to the appropriate heirs. The benefit of a Will is that it serves as a roadmap to your loved one’s instructions as to how their property should have been disbursed. However, without a Will, how the property is distributed at death is determined by Florida law. When someone dies without a Will, their estate is called “intestate.”

  • Intestate Succession. This is the hierarchy of who receives certain property of the deceased after someone dies without a valid Will in place.
  • Spouse’s share. Under Florida law, a surviving spouse is afforded strong inheritance rights, and the amount of the estate that the surviving spouse may inherit depends on a few factors:
    • If the decedent died without any children, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate.
    • If the decedent and surviving spouse both had children together, and those children are the only children of the decedent and surviving spouse, the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate.
    • If the decedent had any children that are not also the child of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse is entitled to ½ of the intestate estate.
    • If the decedent and surviving spouse both had children together, but the surviving spouse has children separate from the deceased, the surviving spouse is only entitled to ½ of the intestate estate.
  • Other Heirs. If your loved one died without a Will, the order provided under Florida law in which their property should be distributed are as follows, in order:
    • Any descendants of the decedent.
    • If there are no descendants, the parents of the decedent.
    • If no parents, to the siblings of the decedent.
    • If no siblings, to the grandparents of the deceased.
    • If no grandparents, to the uncles and aunts of the deceased and any children of aunts and uncles.
    • If there still is no one, the estate will go to the descendants of any former spouse (skipping over the former spouse).
    • If still no one exists to inherit, there is a chance that the property may be inherited by the State of Florida.
  • Significant Others and Friends Do Not Inherit. Unfortunately, friends and significant others are not provided for under Florida’s intestate succession laws. To make sure that your significant other or friend are provided an inheritance, it would be important to have a proper Will prepared before your death.

As you can see, without a Will, someone’s estate will pass without any regard to what the deceased’s wishes were. Not only that, but by creating a Will, you can try to prevent a scenario where someone you wouldn’t otherwise want to inherit from you inherits. Not only that, not all property will need to go through the probate process and, of course, there are limits to the power of a Will. So, it would be important to discuss with an Estate Planning and Probate Attorney any questions you may have regarding intestate succession and effective estate planning techniques.

If you need help with probate administration, trust the Law Offices of Travis R. Walker, P.A., to effectively administer your loved one’s estate. We treat our clients with respect and compassion, helping them guide their loved one’s assets effectively. Our attorneys are well-versed in the many aspects of probate administration and will help you find the best options for your personal preferences and unique circumstance. Contact us through our website or call 772-708-0952 today.

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