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October 21, 2020

In the state of Florida, many residents rely on a will to protect their estate and ensure their beneficiaries receive their promised inheritance. This document has many benefits when it comes to the probate process, as well. But, what happens if you should die without a will?

Florida has intestate succession laws that direct a court on how to distribute a decedent’s estate when there is no will in place. This makes a difficult situation for bereaved family members because without a will, family members you don’t want to receive an inheritance could get one, leaving other heirs  out in the cold.

What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Florida?

Dying intestate (without a will) in the state of Florida can have a significant impact on the amount of inheritance a beneficiary might receive compared to those who planned their estates. While planning for our passing isn’t something many of us like to think about, it’s a necessary step if you want to protect your assets for your loved ones. Without a will, your family will not only have to deal with mourning your loss but may also find themselves burdened with complicated legal issues regarding your finances, property, and debts.

Below are some common situations that will arise when you die intestate in Florida:

The Court Distributes Your Assets According to State Law

If you have property for a family member to inherit, but you die without a will, their inheritance of that asset may not come to fruition. Dying intestate puts your property and financial assets at the mercy of the court and the state’s succession laws. Relatives that you may not have a relationship with or would not want to have any of your estate could end up with a significant portion of it. You lose all control over who benefits from your property when you die without a will because your wishes are not legally recognizable in the form of a will or estate plan.

Creditors May Take a Significant Portion of the Estate

No matter big or small your estate, when you die intestate, any creditors you have can make a claim against it. They will receive priority over those who were to inherit your assets, and this can happen regardless of having a will in place or not. There are other types of estate planning options that can help protect against this situation, but dying intestate all but guarantees your beneficiaries will receive less inheritance than you hoped.

Fighting Over Your Estate

Sadly, when we pass away, emotions among family members may run high and lead to infighting over your estate. Without a will in place, the state of Florida will have no choice but to follow outlined intestate succession laws, which could leave some loved ones with little to no inheritance. This circumstance could cause significant animosity if a family member who should not have received any of your estate receives it, leaving other relatives without anything to survive on after you are gone.

The Benefits of a Florida Will Outweigh Not Having One

Creating a will in Florida is a fairly simple process with the right help, and can avoid adding hardship to those you care about once you die. You will not have to worry about inheritance getting distributed to the wrong person, and you can possibly plan for impacts from the debt you owe.

Other benefits of a Florida will include:

Simplify Bequeathments

Leaving an inheritance that consists of money or real estate is a common desire we all have. These bequests can be set up in your last will and testament so that specific individuals receive their distributions by your own directive and not that of state law.

Designate Who Cares for Your Children

Imagine passing away while your children are still young, and you have no will in place to ensure their safety and care. Worse, the state then designates a toxic family member to take charge of their lives and inheritance. This is a nightmare scenario that could happen if you do not have a will in place to protect your family’s best interests.

Appoint a Personal Representative

Once you have died, your estate must be probated and assets distributed to your beneficiaries. Who carries out these duties? If you die intestate, the court will appoint someone to represent and administer your estate. This situation could jeopardize the different inheritances you wanted to allocate to specific family members. A Florida will allow you to designate who this person should be so that your property gets distributed as you wished. This step will also ensure that mismanagement of your estate is discouraged as your chosen representative will be held liable.

Do Florida Wills Avoid Probate Court?

Unfortunately, using a will is a guarantee your estate will be probated, but this is not necessarily a bad situation. Your designated personal representative is noted in your will, as well as how your assets should be distributed.

Many times, these cases will also require a probate attorney by law. Still, loved ones and the inheritances you leave behind will be protected and observed this way. There are ways to avoid probate, like using a revocable living trust.

Avoid Inheritance Conflicts by Hiring a Florida Probate Attorney

If you are worried about how your loved ones will receive any inheritance you wish to leave behind when you die, your best option is to create a last will and testament. Working with a Florida probate attorney can educate you on the many options available to protect your assets from creditors or intestate succession.

At The Legacy Law Firm, we encourage you to take the necessary steps to protect your estate with a will or another estate planning option – we will help you evaluate which is best. We help you avoid common mistakes that could put your estate in jeopardy with creditors or probate situations. Call us today at (954) 999-9683 or contact us online to discuss your unique situation, learn more, and get started.