Intestate Succession in Florida – What Do I Need to Know?

If you have questions about intestate succession in Florida, you came to the right place. The term “intestate succession” refers to the process of distributing the assets owned by an individual who has passed away without a valid Last Will & Testament. 

In Florida, when someone dies without a valid Last Will & Testament detailing instructions regarding the distribution of their estate, a Florida probate court handles the distribution in accordance with Florida’s intestacy statute. In other words, Florida law determines who inherits the decedent’s assets. This is why creating estate planning documents such as a Last Will or Testament, Living Trust, or a Lady Bird Deed is so important.

What You Need to Know about Intestate Succession in Florida

When someone passed away in Florida leaving assets in their individual name and they also die without a Will, that person’s assets go to their closest relatives following a specific order of priority. Intestate succession, however, is not always as straightforward as one may think.

Under Florida’s intestacy laws, the first person to inherit anything is the decedent’s surviving spouse. If the deceased had no children, then the surviving spouse inherits everything. If the deceased had children but those children are also the children of the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has no other children, then the surviving spouse still inherits everything. 

As you might expect, if there is no surviving spouse but the deceased left children, next in line are the decedent’s children. To fit this category, however, the children must be either biological or adopted. In other words, stepchildren do not qualify. 

If a person leaves behind a spouse and children from a prior marriage or relationship, then the spouse inherits 50% of the estate and the children inherit the other 50%. That same rule applies if the surviving spouse is the one that has children from a prior relationship. 

 If a child of the decedent passed away before the decedent, then that child’s children (i.e., the decedent’s grandchildren) inherit the deceased child’s portion of the assets. If there is no surviving spouse or children, then the decedent’s parents inherit the assets. In cases where none of the above individuals are alive, then the decedent’s siblings divide the assets.

If none of the above relatives survived the deceased, then matters become even trickier, as more distant relatives may end up inheriting the assets of the deceased. 

Assets that Can Avoid Intestate Succession in Florida

When an individual passes away without leaving a valid Will, some parts of their estate, such as a 401K or other retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries, may avoid intestate succession. Any retirement or bank accounts that properly designate who will inherit the funds when the owner dies will avoid intestate succession. 

Similarly, any assets properly placed into a trust, or owned jointly with someone else with rights of survivorship, typically avoid the intestate succession process, as they simply go to the other owner upon the decedent’s death. An Enhanced Life Estate Deed, also known as a Lady Bird Deed, is also a popular way to leave assets to your loved ones while at the same time maintaining control of the property during the time you are still living. It also has the added benefit of probate avoidance. 

The Best Way to Avoid Intestate Succession in Florida

There is a bulletproof way to avoid intestate succession: proper estate planning. A solid, comprehensive estate plan will allow you to not only avoid intestate succession, but probate as well. Probate is a costly and time-consuming court process which can be avoided with proper estate planning. This will allow your loved ones to receive their assets quickly, without having to spend additional time or money to do so.

Properly written and executed estate planning documents can help minimize taxes, establish care for minor children and pets, avoid probate proceedings, and, most importantly, prevent family fights. However, estate planning is not easy. There are several legal requirements that each estate planning document must meet, which is why we recommend working with a skilled and experienced Florida attorney.

How Farshchian Law Can Help

For a free consultation and to learn more about our estate planning and real estate services, call us at (800) 604-1871, or email us via our secure online contact form. We can assist with retitling your assets in a manner that avoids probate and the Florida intestacy laws. We provide estate planning, real estate, probate, and closing/title services throughout the State of Florida.