When someone dies owning assets titled solely in his or her name, the decedent’s estate will likely go through probate. During probate, a court will supervise and ensure the transfer of these assets occurs according to the provisions in the last will.
What happens if the decedent died without a will in Florida? Read on to find out.
Transfer of Property After Death Without Will in Florida – The Basics
The estate of a deceased Florida resident who died without a will is deemed “intestate” under state law. The last will is the document that outlines how someone’s property must be distributed to their rightful beneficiaries upon death.
With no will to specify when and how to transfer the decedent’s assets upon death, the court must follow a set of default statutory rules in the distribution. Another aspect of Florida intestacy law is the appointment of a personal representative.
In most cases, the person appointed in court as the personal representative (or executor) was designated in the decedent’s will. In intestate estates, the appointment of a personal representative must also follow a statutory order of preference.
Transfer of Property After Death Without Will in Florida – Explaining the Order of Preference
When the court is appointing a personal representative, Florida Statutes §733.301 (1)(b) specifies that “the following order of preference shall be observed in intestate estates:
- The surviving spouse
- The person selected by a majority in interest of the heirs
- The heir nearest in degree. If more than one applies, the court may select the one best qualified”
Additionally, Florida intestacy law tends to privilege the decedent’s surviving wife in the distribution of intestate estates. As provided by Florida Statutes §732.102, “the intestate share of the surviving spouse is:
- If there is no surviving descendant of the decedent, the entire intestate estate
- If the decedent is survived by one or more descendants, all of whom are also descendants of the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has no other descendant, the entire intestate estate
- If there are one or more surviving descendants of the decedent who are not lineal descendants of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate estate
- If there are one or more surviving descendants of the decedent, all of whom are also descendants of the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has one or more descendants who are not descendants of the decedent, one-half of the intestate estate”
If the decedent is not survived by a spouse, the descendants inherit the intestate estate in equal shares. If the decedent is survived neither by a spouse nor any descendants, the decedent’s closest family members inherit the estate following a specific order of preference.
Is it Possible to Avoid Florida Intestacy Without a Will?
The last will is the key element of a well-crafted estate plan, but you must understand that property inherited through a will must go through probate before distribution.
Depending on the size and value of an estate subject to court-supervised administration, probate may result in a stressful experience for the beneficiaries. The best approach is to work with an expert attorney to draft a solid will and rely on alternative legal tools to transfer property upon death outside of probate.