estate_planningIf a person passes away without a will, Florida intestate succession laws govern who inherits from the estate.

When an individual is unmarried and has no children or other descendants like grandchildren or great-grandchildren, we look to sections 732.103(2)-(6) of the Florida Statutes.  The inheritance order is as follows:

  1. To the decedent’s mother and father, or the survivor of them;
  2. To the decedent’s brothers and sisters, or the descendants of deceased siblings;

If no parents, siblings, nieces or nephews or great-nieces and nephews exist, the estate is then divided into half, with one-half passing to the paternal side of the family and the other half passing to the maternal side of the family as follows:

  1. To the grandmother and grandfather equally, or to the survivor of them;
  2. If there are no living grandparents, then to aunts and uncles, or the descendants of deceased aunts and uncles;
  3. If none of these individuals exist, the estate passes to the family of the last deceased spouse of the decedent as if the deceased spouse inherited the estate and then passed it on to their family.

If there are none of the above, the property is given or “escheats” to the State of Florida.

In our experience, individuals without children usually want to leave their estate to specific family members or friends, and not have it spread amongst distant relatives.  If this applies to you, it is important to spell out your wishes in a legally binding will or trust.  Many people believe a signed note or verbal instructions are sufficient, but these types of instructions are not legally enforceable unless they observe the will formalities required by Florida law.

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