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What Happens in Florida If You Die Without a Will?

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What Happens in Florida If You Die Without a Will?

The Problem of No Last Will & Testament

A Last Will and Testament is a basic estate plan document. Its purpose is to memorialize and direct the testator’s wishes as to what should happen to his or her assets – real estate, the family home, the car, boat, jewelry, etc. – after death. Hopefully, a Last Will & Testament is just one of many documents that a testator has created as part of a comprehensive estate plan.

Most Baby Boomers Have Not Created An End of Life Legal Plan

Unfortunately, many Floridians have procrastinated on creating an estate plan. If they die before they execute a Last Will and Testament, then their assets will be distributed not according to their wishes but instead according to the laws of the State of Florida. They will have died intestate.

Florida residents who pass away without a valid will have died “intestate.”

When someone living in Florida (a person who has legal residency here) dies and has no valid will, then the legal term used to describe their situation is that they have died “intestate.” The Florida legislature addressed this issue by enacting laws to govern how a decedent’s assets will be administered if he or she dies intestate. Together with these statutes, found in Florida Probate Code, Chapter 732, there are court opinions that help guide Florida probate courts in determining how and where the “decedent’s” assets will be transferred.

Florida Law Decides What Property is Part of the Estate

When someone dies without a will, Florida law immediately creates an “intestate estate.” This estate holds the title to the decedent’s assets immediately at the time of death. This way, property in Florida is never without ownership:

Florida § 732.101(1): “Any part of the estate of a decedent not effectively disposed of by will passes to the decedent’s heirs as prescribed in the following sections of this code.”

Who is an Heir and What Happens if There are No Surviving Heirs?

The decedent’s “heirs” are the persons who are related to the decedent and described in Florida statute 732.103, which governs the distribution of the decedent’s assets if he or she died intestate. As long as there is someone who meets the criteria for being an heir under the Florida Probate Code, then the personal representative will insure that the ownership of the intestacy estate’s assets is transferred to that person or persons.

Without a living heir, then and only then, will the assets pass to the State of Florida. This is termed an “escheat” to the state, and after the property is transferred to state ownership, it is sold and the money put into the State School Fund.   See Florida Statute § 732.107.

For more details on Florida Intestacy law and how these estates are administered under the Florida probate code, please read our article: Intestate Probate Under Florida Law


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South Florida Probate Lawyers Helping People in Broward County and South Florida

Our firm represents clients in both estate planning and end-of-life administration including people who are, or who may be, heirs to an estate of someone who has died without a will. Our experienced probate lawyer will provide clients involved in all kinds of probate and will controversies with zealous legal advice, counsel, and advocacy.

For those living in Florida year-round or just in the winter months, as well as those who have an interest in a Florida intestate estate but who live in another country or state, we can help them in the analysis and application of the Florida Probate Intestacy Laws as well as the related court opinions to Florida intestacy succession. Please feel free to contact our offices for a free initial consultation to see how our lawyers may be able to help you.

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