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What happens if you die without a will or descendants in Florida?

We hear, over the course of our lives, about how important it is to have a will in place to designate what we want to become of our assets once we pass on. Despite this, many people fail to draft one. The state has intestate succession laws in place for handling such situations.

Alternatively, an individual may have one, yet fail to tell others about its contents. A relative may discover that what remains of the estate was willed over to a friend or charitable organization, but not him or her. Situations like this often are often met with shock. Relatives may choose to challenge the will through litigation.

Even in the absence of a will, when an individual dies and leaves behind a spouse, Florida law prescribes that he or she inherit the entirety of the deceased's estate. If that spouse has predeceased him or her, the estate will be divided equally among his or her own children or grandchildren. Any widowed decedent's estate will be equally divided among spouses and kids or grandchildren.

If a decedent doesn't have a surviving spouse, nor any living stepchildren, children or grandchildren, the decedent's estate will be divided up equally among living parents. If only one parent is still living, the entirety of the estate will go to him or her alone. When both of the decedent's parents have passed away, assets will be divided equally among his or her living siblings and/or their kids.

In the absence of these, the remaining assets will be split up among the decedent's paternal and maternal family members or the last known spouse. In the absence of those, the State of Florida will take ownership of the estate and sell the assets off. Proceeds will later be deposited into a state school fund.

Many decedents believed to not have a will are often found to have one. The decedent may have willed one's estate to non-relatives or placed it in a trust for a charitable organization. Situations like this often result in wills being challenged. A Melbourne, Florida, trust litigation attorney can advise you of the merits of contesting a will in your respective case.

Source: The Balance, "Learn about the laws of intestacy succession in Florida," Julie Garber, accessed Oct. 18, 2017

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