A will is a legal document where you, the “testator,” can identify who will get your assets when you die. You can distribute your money and your property to whom you want.
A will can assist your loved ones financially and get them the items of yours most suited to them. It’s always a good idea to properly situate your family members, yet there are still millions of Americans who die without a will. That’s called dying “intestate.”
What is Dying Intestate?
Because a will is a “testament” of your wishes, a person who dies without a will is called someone who dies “intestate.” If a person dies intestate, state law will dictate how the assets are distributed. In Florida, the Florida Probate Code controls.
State laws attempt to create a sensible plan for distributing a decedent’s property by default, but each person’s financial situation and personal relationships are so unique that the default approach is certain to miss something.
How Florida Will Distribute My Assets if I Die Without a Will
In Florida, the intestacy laws provide an order by which to distribute a decedent’s assets. First, if the decedent was married at the time of death, all of the assets go to the spouse. That’s regardless of whether the decedent has children from that spouse. However, if the decedent has children from someone else, half of the assets go to the spouse, and the other half is split equally among the kids. If one or more of the decedent’s children is deceased in this scenario, the deceased child’s assets will be spread among the kids of that child.
If the decedent was not married at the time of death and had kids, then the kids will take an equal share in the assets of the estate. Just as in the example above, if one of the decedent’s children is deceased at the time, then that portion of the estate will go to the deceased child’s kids.
If someone dies intestate without a spouse and without decedents (children), the assets will go to the decedent’s parents if the parents are still living. If the parents are not living, the assets will be split among the decedent’s siblings. If there were no siblings, the assets will go to more remote heirs.
Downsides of Relying on Intestacy Distribution
If you die without a will and rely on the state of Florida to distribute your assets, you won’t be able to edit the default asset distribution depending on your relationships with your family members. If you are estranged from one sibling or barely have a relationship with another blood relative but you know others very closely, you might have wanted to favor those to whom you are close. But the intestacy laws do not account for that. They treat all blood relatives equally.
Another downside is that your distribution will have to rely on the sometimes very lengthy probate process in the state. If you have a proper estate plan, there are ways to distribute your assets that can avoid probate, so it’s more efficient to have a complete plan.
Benefits of a Complete Estate Plan
It’s important to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about your will and to get some suggestions for your estate plan as a whole. You may decide to put some of your assets away in a trust so that your loved ones can receive money without paying huge taxes. You may elect to give certain assets in whole to a certain party rather than have the parties share them equally.
Everyone’s situation is unique. It’s important to account for all possible scenarios at your time of death and the potential methods of distributing your assets. If you do not have a will, or if yours is outdated, call our experienced estate planning lawyers at Mortellaro Law today!