When you make out a will, you describe what you want to happen to your property and assets after you die. Your surviving relatives, your executor and the court all have a responsibility to respect your wishes and fulfill them to the extent possible.
If you die without a will, there is no record of what you would have wanted for your estate. Nevertheless, the need to dispose of your property still exists. In a situation like this, the laws of intestate succession apply.
How does intestate succession work?
The word “intestate” means “without a will.” The laws of intestate succession arrange your likely heirs into a hierarchy. If there are no heirs at the top level, the heirs on the next level can inherit. If there are no heirs on the second level, the estate passes to those on the third level, and so on down the line until the court-appointed administrator finds one or more beneficiaries to inherit your estate. Each state establishes its own laws of intestate succession.
What do the laws of intestate succession in Florida say?
In Florida, the laws of intestate succession favor your surviving spouse and any descendants that you share with him or her. According to the 2021 Florida Statutes, if there is no surviving spouse and no descendants, next your parents inherit your estate. If your parents have predeceased you, your brothers and sisters inherit your estate or, if your siblings have died, your estate passes to their descendants, i.e., your nieces and nephews. In the absence of a surviving spouse, descendants, parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, your estate then passes to your maternal and paternal kindred, e.g., your grandparents, aunts or uncles.
The laws of intestate succession do not take extenuating circumstances into account. They do not provide for potential heirs who are not also relatives, such as close friends of yours. If either you or your surviving spouse has children from a previous relationship, it decreases the amount that your surviving spouse and the descendants you share can inherit.