Many individuals of an advanced age, with heirs or significant assets, may have wills in place that state their wishes as it relates to which belongings they want their loved ones to inherit. At the same time, others may not. While Florida law generally outlines how the division of assets should be handled in the absence of a will being in place, there are a number of circumstances that may get in the way of settling an estate.
In instances where there is no will in Florida, the state is entitled to take the decedent's assets if he or she has no heirs. At the same time, though, it's pretty uncommon that a decedent doesn't have any descendants.
This is because heirs include anyone who is not more than a single generation removed from the decedent. As for the type relationships that would meet this criteria, they include parents, children and grandchildren, as well as more distant relatives. Under Florida rules of intestate succession, an individual's family members are entitled to certain assets relative to their proximity of lineage to the deceased.
In cases in which a decedent has a surviving spouse, yet no living descendants, that spouse is entitled to the entire estate. In instances in which there are both a living spouse and descendants, each party is entitled to half of the value of the estate.
As for an unmarried decedent, in the event he or she passes without a will, the entirety of their estate will be split equally between all the descendants. In this case, any child that pre-deceased their parent will have their portion of the estate split among their surviving children. In the absence of descendants, those assets will be divided among their surviving parents, if living, or otherwise, their own siblings.
There's much debate that arises surrounding the division of assets when a decedent either has no will, has written certain people out of it or has no immediate heirs that are eligible to inherit them. If you're looking to challenge a will, you might find that a Melbourne, Florida, estates and trusts attorney can advise you as to the merits of your case.
Source: floridabar.org, "Consumer pamphlet: Probate in Florida," accessed May 24, 2017