When thinking about your estate planning options, it is important to know the backdrop upon which your decisions will be made. If you die without a will, the State of Florida has pre-set rules, called the rules of intestate succession, that will determine how all assets subject to distribution shall be distributed. Here is a look at how the rules of intestate succession will divide your assets if you should pass without a will:
If you are survived by your spouse:
1) A surviving spouse of the deceased will receive the entire estate if the deceased had no lineal heirs (example: children or grandchildren).
So your wife/husband would inherit everything if you had no children or grandchildren alive at the time of your death.
2) A surviving spouse of the deceased will also receive the entire estate if the deceased is survived by a one or more descendants all of whom are also descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has no other descendants.
So your husband/wife would inherit everything if you had children or grandchildren at the time of your death if they were all lineal descendants of you and your wife.
3) A surviving spouse is entitled to only 1/2 the estate if: a) there are one or more surviving descendants of the deceased who are not descendants of the surviving spouse or (b) If there are one or more descendants of the the deceased who are also descendant from the surviving spouse and one or more descendant’s of the surviving spouse who are not related to the deceased.
Florida’s laws of intestate succession change slightly when people have kids from a surviving marriage. That creates a situation where the default rule is that if either you or your surviving spouse have descendants that are not a product of your marriage the default law protects these descendants by giving your surviving spouse a 1/2 interest in your estate and splitting the remaining interests among the descendants per stirpes.
If you are not survived by your spouse:
1) If you have been survived by lineal descendants, but no spouse, then the estate will be divided among these descendants.
2)If you have been survived by no lineal descendants nor a surviving spouse your estate will pass to your lineal ascendants, meaning your parents or grandparents and collateral relatives like siblings, uncles and aunts.
3) If none of your lineal ascendants have survived you then the estate will pass to the descendant’s of your grandparents with 1/2 going to the maternal side, and 1/2 going to the paternal side.
If you have been survived by your spouse, the remainder portion of the estate to be distributed to your heirs, if any will be as follows:
1) To your decendants (equally).
2)If no decedants to father and mother equally or the survivor of them.
3) If none of the above then to your brothers and sisters or their descendant’s equally.
4)If none of the above to lineal ascendants