In Florida, dying without the proper estate plans in place means that your estate will be subject to intestate succession law. What is intestate succession law? This means that assets that you own by yourself, will be left to relatives under this law, in the absence of your wishes being formally laid out in a will, or if a will is found to be invalid. A decedent is the person who has died.
Within intestate succession law, the entire estate of a decedent is left to the surviving spouse, if the decedent has no surviving children, or any lineal descendants. A lineal descendant can include children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, of the decedent down the generational line. Also, if the decedent and the surviving spouse only have children that they share together, and no other descendants, then the entirety of the estate will be left to the surviving spouse.
Within intestate succession law, a surviving spouse will receive one half of the decedent’s estate, while any lineal descendants of the decedent, but who are not also descendants of the surviving spouse, will share the remaining half of the estate. Any lineal descendants of the decedent will share the estate if there is no surviving spouse.
If a decedent has no surviving spouse, or any lineal descendants, then intestate succession law sees the estate pass to lineal ascendants, which includes parents and grandparents, and to collateral relatives, which includes siblings, aunts and uncles.
The intestate succession law in Florida only applies to assets in the estate that would normally be left in a will, but does not apply to other assets, such as property transferred to a living trust, property that is jointly owned, and funds in a retirement account, just to name a few. These particular assets will be left to the named beneficiary, regardless of whether or not you have a will to allocate the other assets in your estate.
Unless you want your estate to fall under intestate succession law in Florida, it is best to have your estate plans laid out in legal documents.