When a Florida resident dies without an estate plan, Florida law will determine what happens to the person’s property.
More precisely, the laws of Florida spell out what will happen to property if the property is part of a probate estate and the person who died had no will.
These laws do not apply to property in a trust, beneficiary accounts like life insurance and retirement plans, and certain jointly held property, including certain real estate. Other laws determine how this sort of property gets handled, but it does not pass through probate.
On the other hand, Florida’s so-called intestate laws apply to situations where a will gets declared invalid or even if the will just does not direct how a piece of property is supposed to be handled.
Surviving spouses receive favored status in Florida’s intestate laws
Like many other states, Florida’s intestate laws give favored treatment to a deceased person’s surviving spouse.
If the person has no children or descendants from their children, the surviving spouse gets the entire estate. Likewise, if the person’s only children are with the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has no other children, the surviving spouse still gets the entire estate.
On the other hand, if either the person who died or the spouse has children or descendants from those children, the surviving spouse only gets half the estate.
The other half will go directly to the deceased’s children equally. If the deceased dies unmarried, all of the property goes to the children equally.
If the deceased has no children, the intestate laws can quickly get complicated, but the idea is that the deceased’s closest relatives get the property.
Those who would prefer to make their own decisions need a will
Of course, for many families in the Tampa area, the intestate laws are not the best option. If that is so, then a person will need to create a will or other estate plan to spell out what they want done with their property after they die.
They should do so carefully and after understanding their legal options.