What Dying Intestate Means and Why You Want to Avoid It

What Dying Intestate Means and Why You Want to Avoid It

Dying intestate refers to dying without a will. Because no legal documents exist to administer the estate, the court abides by state intestacy laws and must appoint a representative to administer the estate, whom you have not chosen.

When an individual dies intestate, Florida Intestate Succession statutes dictate which family members inherit assets and the percentage of their inheritance. Some family members take priority over others.

Here is how the statutes determine succession:

  • When there are surviving children but no spouse, the children inherit everything.
  • When there is a spouse but no surviving lineal descendants (children, grandchildren or great grandchildren), the spouse inherits everything.
  • When you are the spouse and the decedent’s surviving children are descendants from your marriage with your deceased spouse, you inherit everything.
  • When there is no spouse and there are surviving children but one of the children died prior to the parent’s death, the offspring of that child (the deceased’s grandchildren) inherit and share the deceased child’s portion of the inheritance.
  • Any assets that you and your spouse own jointly (your house, life insurance policies, bank accounts or stocks designating death benefits) avoid probate and simply go to the surviving spouse upon death.

Unfortunately, people of considerable means have died intestate. When you are young, a promising future appears to lie ahead of you.  Writing a will or devising a trust is the last thing on your mind. However, a devastating car accident or life-threatening illness can change your life. Anyone with substantial assets is wise to put estate planning in place regardless of their age. The trouble with dying intestate is that often inheritances do not work out how you would intend. By following the guidance of a skilled estate planning attorney, you can decide who inherits your estate instead of leaving the matter to Florida intestacy law. Also, if you have minor children, it is very important to have a provision saying who should raise your children if your spouse does not survive you. That could be the most important provision in your will. A skilled estate planning attorney can help you prepare a provision that will be binding on your family.