When someone dies without leaving a valid Last Will and Testament, they are referred to as being “intestate.” But dying without a Will doesn’t mean there’s no estate to distribute to appropriate parties. It just means there’s no document stating how to do it. If there’s no Will, Florida law still provides a way to settle an intestate estate.
One thing to note right away is that some assets pass to surviving co-owners or named beneficiaries, even if no Will exists:
Florida law provides for the succession of other assets, considering the marital status of the decedent and the existence of descendants. Succession may be complicated if the family structure is also complicated. If there are no surviving spouses or children, then shares of the estate will pass to parents, aunts, uncles, or other relatives as set forth in Florida law. When there are no heirs, the state takes control of the assets.
But, if there’s no Will, how can the estate be probated?
The steps for probate are almost identical as to those of probate for an estate with a valid Will. There’s just no Will for the Court to validate, and the process may be more expensive and frustrating for your heirs.
First, someone files an application with a court to serve as the executor or personal representative of the estate. Once the court grants Letters of Administration to a personal representative, that person must perform the same duties as an executor, like notifying potential heirs, among other things. As the probate concludes, the executor distributes estate assets to the appropriate heirs.
While this sounds fairly easy, potential heirs may disagree on who should serve as executor, how property should be distributed, and even who is actually an heir. Dying without a Will may set up a family feud that lasts for generations.
Your estate plan is your voice. It’s a way for you to express your vision for the future. Unless you leave valid estate planning documents, that vision may be lost. Don’t miss the opportunity to coordinate an orderly transfer of your assets to your loved ones.
We look forward to helping you create a comprehensive and sensible plan for your family. Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., assists clients in Palm City and surrounding communities like Stuart, Hobe Sound, the Treasure Coast, and Jupiter. Call us at 772-324-9050 to set up an initial meeting.