J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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What happens when a Florida resident dies without a will?

Anyone in the Lakeland area who has a substantial amount of assets has probably considered what will happen with his or her estate when he or she dies. Executing a will is the most conventional way for a person in this position to determine how any assets will be distributed upon his or her death.

Wills can be very simple, or they can be very complex, and an experienced estates and trust attorney can help people put together the type of will that makes the most sense for their particular circumstances. But what happens when a Florida resident dies without having executed a will?

Florida has a very detailed set of laws to address situations like this, sometimes referred to as the intestacy rules. Intestate is just the term that the law uses to describe a deceased person's estate that is not covered by a will. Florida's intestacy rules provide for various different ways to distribute the intestate estate, based on the decedent's surviving heirs.

For example, if the decedent has a surviving spouse but no children, the spouse gets the entire intestate estate. If, on the other hand, the decedent left a surviving spouse and children, state law provides for a few different scenarios. One possibility is that the surviving children are the biological children of the decedent and the surviving spouse. In this case, the surviving spouse still takes the entire intestate estate. But, if the decedent's children are not descendants of the surviving spouse, then the spouse gets half of the estate and the decedent's surviving children get the other half, which they split equally amongst themselves.

The possible scenarios of intestate succession can get more complicated than the examples above. This is especially true in today's society where many Floridians get married more than once and possibly even have children with different spouses.

Rather than relying on Florida's intestate laws, a person with assets and a family should consider taking the time to create a will. This is one way to be sure that the estate gets passed down in accordance with the decedent's wishes. Death is rarely a popular subject, but when it comes to a person's estate, planning for death can be an important way of protecting a family.

Source: The 2014 Florida Statutes, "PROBATE CODE: INTESTATE SUCCESSION AND WILLS," Accessed on April 6, 2015

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