In Florida, inheritance laws are based on whether there was a valid, enforceable last will and testament for the person who passed. If they had executed and signed a will, their remaining assets would typically be distributed according to the wishes outlined in the document.
However, if someone passes away without a will, their assets are subject to Florida’s “intestate succession” inheritance laws. Still, not all types of wealth are subject to intestate succession, even if you do not have a will. Additionally, how bank accounts, property, and retirement plans are treated in Florida depends on estate planning and marital status.
Who Inherits Assets in Florida if There’s No Will?
The intestate succession laws in Florida are relatively straightforward. Any wealth subject to intestate succession in Florida will pass to your next-of-kin as required by law. Your next-of-kin could be your spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, or other siblings. If children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, they are referred to as your descendants.
For example, if you are married when you pass away and have no children, your spouse will inherit everything. Conversely, if you are unmarried and have children, the children will split all your intestate assets evenly. So if you have three living children at your time of death, each will receive one-third of your assets.
Your parent(s) will receive all your assets if you do not have a spouse or descendants. Finally, if you do not have a spouse, descendants, or living parents, any remaining siblings will inherit your property.
Does a Spouse Automatically Inherit Everything in Florida?
Florida law does not allow a surviving spouse to inherit everything if you have any living descendants. However, intestate succession laws give your spouse preference, and, no matter how many descendants or other next-of-kin you have, at least half of your assets.
The laws become slightly more complicated if you have a spouse and descendants. If you are married, and all of your children are also your spouse’s, your spouse will receive everything. The legal theory is that your surviving spouse will pass some or all those assets on to your descendants. But there is no guarantee your spouse does not subsequently write a will that excludes your children.
However, if you or your spouse have descendants from a previous relationship, Florida law requires accounting for these children and other descendants. So, imagine you have children with another person. If you remarry, the law makes sure your children or their descendants receive part of your estate. Children or descendants from a prior relationship will split half of any intestate assets, while your surviving spouse receives the other half.
Finally, if your spouse has children from a previous relationship, but all your descendants are with your spouse, your spouse will receive half your assets. Your descendants will directly receive the other half of your intestate succession property.
What Happens to a Bank Account When Someone Dies Without a Will?
Bank accounts, such as checking, savings, and money market accounts, typically allow you to designate beneficiaries. If you have properly named a beneficiary or beneficiaries on these so-called payable-on-death accounts, the funds in these accounts will not be subject to probate. This means that the intestate succession laws won’t apply, even if you do not have a will.
The probate court only has jurisdiction over assets that are subject to intestate succession laws. Assets not subject to probate in Florida include:
- Life Insurance
- Payable-on-death bank and securities accounts
- Retirement products such as 401ks and IRAs
- Property owned in joint tenancy
- Any assets transferred to a living trust.
Because bank accounts and these other assets avoid probate, your beneficiaries can access the funds within them simply by notifying the bank of your death and confirming their identities.
If a loved one has passed away without a will, you should discuss the situation with a Florida probate litigation attorney as soon as possible. Because the intestate succession process can be complex, it’s essential to work with a lawyer with significant experience in these types of probate cases. A knowledgeable lawyer can ensure that the process runs smoothly and that assets are distributed correctly following state law.
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About RMO Lawyers, LLP
About RMO LLP serves clients in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Orange County, San Diego, Kansas City, Miami, and communities throughout California, Florida, Missouri, and Kansas. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn, has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates. For a free consultation, call (786) 761-8333 or visit: https://rmolawyers.com