No Will? There’s a Way: Florida Intestate Proceedings

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:

  • Property transferred to a living trust;
  • Life insurance proceeds;
  • Funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account;
  • Securities held in a transfer-on-death account;
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts; and
  • Property you own with someone else in a joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.

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.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Does Your Estate Plan Need An Annual Checkup? 
Probate & Trust Administration
What Is Probate? 
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Probate 
Is Probate An Expensive Process?
Understanding Probate: An Overview Of The Florida Probate System
Should I Try To Avoid Probate If Possible?
Estate Planning Basics: Why Avoiding Probate Is Preferable
How Can I Avoid A Long, Complex Probate Process?
Are There Any Assets That Are Not Required To Pass Through Probate?
Executing An Estate: 8 Key Duties Of The Executor  
A Brief Overview Of Portability
Hollow Testaments: Understanding Florida Holographic Wills
Rule 41f And The Continuing Importance Of Gun Trusts

 

Written by John Mangan, Esq.

John Mangan, Esq.

I’m an attorney in Palm City, FL, and I serve clients throughout Martin County, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown, as well as those in St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and other parts of Florida. The Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., is an innovative firm providing estate planning services to clients in Florida. We focus primarily on wills, trusts, asset protection, guardianship, and probate administration.