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Death is always an unfortunate event that we can’t seem to dodge. It is a painful thing to lose a family member and even worse if they left no will behind. We have all seen court cases involving estates of deceased dragging for months and sometimes years. The big question is, what happens in you die without a will in the Florida state?

If you die without a will, it is said that you died ‘intestate’. Florida has an intestate succession protocol that determines who gets a share of the property and what they get.  These statutes are found in the Florida probate code, chapter 732, intestate succession and wills. After death, the state creates an intestate state which creates a provision to hold the title for the property and take full responsibility including debts of the deceased property.

However, there are some properties and assets that do not pass through intestate succession. After death the co-owner or beneficiary has 100% rights to them. They include;

  • Assets that you might move to a living trust
  • Proceeds attained from life insurance
  • Funds in an IRA or other retirement account
  • Any type of securities that are held in a transfer-on-death account
  • Bank accounts that are payable-on-death
  • Co-owned property in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety

Application of intestate succession law in different scenarios

My husband died without a will - What Happens To a House?

  1. Deceased leaves behind children with no spouse – The property are shared equally among the children. If any of the deceased’s children is dead, their children will inherit his share equally. If he/she died before bearing children, his other siblings will divide his share equally among themselves
  2. Deceased leaves behind a wife with no children or descendants – the wife is solely entitled to the whole estate
  3. A wife is left behind with children all belonging to the couple – as of October 2011, the law states that in this case, the spouse is to inherit the whole estate solely.
  4. Spouse is left with the couples descendants but the deceased also had other children not from their union – the wife will get 50% of the estate and the rest is shared among all the children equally per stirpes
  5. Deceased leaves spouse with descendants but the spouse had other children that were not the deceased’s biological or adopted children – the law does not identify step-children in intestate succession so in this case, the wife will get 50% of the property and the children from their union will share the rest equally per stirpes. Step- children get nothing.
  6. Deceased had no wife but left behind children and descendants – the estate will be shared equally among the children in stirpes
  7. Deceased left behind no wife or children – the property is automatically given to the deceased’s parents to share equally. If only one of them is alive, they get all of it solely. In the case that the parents are not there, the estate is divided among the deceased’s siblings and their descendants.

In the rare event that the deceased did not have any of these people i.e. spouse, children, grandchildren, parents or siblings, the estate is given to his/her mother’s or father’s relatives to share equally i.e. the grandparents but if they are not there, it is turned to the uncles and aunts of the deceased. Suppose there is no surviving relative on the father’s side, then the mother’s property is entitled to the whole estate and the reverse is true.

  1. Deceased left no living heirs – the property is turned over to the state of Florida. when this happens, it is referred to as an ‘escheat’ to the state. The property is sold and the proceeds are deposited into the state school fund.

Per stirpes

It is a system of ensuring that each eligible heir gets an equal share of the property. For example, a father dies and leaves behind four children having written no will.

  1. All four children get 25% of the estate if they are all alive
  2. If one of them died and left behind a child, he/she would get the 25% of the share solely. If he left 2 children, each would get 12.5% of the property and so on.

What valid reasons would lead to disqualification form inheriting property?

  • Any person found guilty by conviction of having participating in aiding the death of the deceased cannot be allowed to acquire any of the assets. If there is lack of conviction, the court can be able to weigh evidence and disqualify anyone who actively participated in ending the deceased’s life.
  • If at the time of death the deceased had filed for divorce and completed the process, then the former spouse cannot contest for inclusion in the inheritance process. However, if the process was not finalized, the spouse remains an eligible heir.

Intestate succession laws are there to ensure that your estate does not go unclaimed in case you die without leaving a will behind. It is based on the premise that everyone would want to leave every bit of their property to family while in real sense; this might not be the case. There are those that support numerous charities and initiatives that they would like to make a difference even beyond death. It is advisable to make a point of writing a will to make sure you articulate every detail you deem necessary and let it be known that you have a will so that at the time of death, it can be accessed easily. This highly reduces the amount of time and stress involved in inheritance settlements.

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