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What is intestacy in Florida?

When one dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. In Florida, when a person dies and has left no will, the Florida intestate succession statutes will determine how the assets of the decedent will be distributed. Unfortunately, this does not always mean that the assets will be distributed in a way that the decedent may have wished or hoped for - nor will the tax consequences to those who inherit be particularly favorable. This is why estate planning is crucial.

Like a will, intestacy must also go through the probate process. But the process is strictly dictated by statute. For example, if the decedent was married but had no direct descendants at the time of death, the surviving spouse will receive the entirety of the estate. This is also the case if all of the decedent's descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has no other descendants.

On the other hand, if the decedent was married and had kids or grandchildren, but not all of them are also descendants of the surviving spouse - or if the surviving spouse has descendants, such as children from another marriage - the surviving spouse would receive 50 percent of the estate, while the remaining half is distributed among the descendants of the decedent.

In a nutshell, if you don't decide how you would like your assets distributed upon your passing, the laws of Florida will decide for you. Because the future is impossible to tell, it is never too soon to start planning for the inevitable. The best way to get started with a plan is to sit down with a seasoned estate planning attorney and discuss the best course of action.

Source: The 2017 Florida Statutes, "Intestate Succession," accessed March 1, 2018

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