As we have said before on this blog, life is oftentimes unpredictable. Despite our best laid plans, Murphy's Law can always rear its ugly head at any time and cause anything bad that could happen to happen. As you can imagine, this unpredictability can cause considerable problems though for your estate, especially if you do not have a will.
When you die without a will, your estate goes into what is called intestate succession. This process is dictated by Florida laws that tell the courts how to distribute property and assets that would otherwise be within the scope of a will. Even though there is a direct line of succession the courts must follow, disputes can still arise which might require the involvement of an attorney at that point.
The direct line of succession laid out by Florida's intestacy laws starts with a decedent's spouse who may receive all or most of an estate, depending on if the decedent had any descendents. The next eligible individual is the decedent's descendents, typically children, who are granted a portion of the estate.
If no surviving spouse or descendants of the decedent exist, this is where things get complicated because the courts have to look at other heirs such as parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and even grandparents. An estate that reaches this point will likely encounter disputes, especially the more distant the genealogy gets because a relative may believe that they should get a part of the estate before or over another relative. Sometimes, they are surprised when intestacy laws do not award them this part, which can lead to disputes and even litigation.
Interstate succession also creates another problem: some or all of your estate might transfer to a relative who you don't like or don't know well enough to leave anything to. Without a will though, the courts have little choice but to follow the law; and because you are deceased, there is nothing you can do about it either.
As you can see, leaving your estate to intestate succession may not be the best idea for your situation. To prevent this, make sure to speak with a lawyer and leave a carefully drafted will.
Source: leg.state.fl.us, "Chapter 732, Sections 732.101-732.103," Accessed March 13, 2015