Estate planning remains a controversial topic for many people in Florida. While most understand the benefit of having a will, few actually follow through in drafting one. Indeed, according to information compiled by Gallup, only 46% of American adults have a will.
The reasons for putting off this important task may vary. Some may think that will always have time tomorrow to get to it, while others may not like to confront the issue of their own mortality. Then there are those who may worry about their decisions regarding the dispersal of their assets offending certain family members or friends. This particular group may think it better not to prepare a will at all and instead leave the matter of deciding how to divide up their estates to their assumed beneficiaries.
What happens when one dies without a will?
Yet there is a fallacy in this line of thinking. When one dies intestate (without a will), it is the state that determines the disposition of their estate. Section 732.102 of Florida’s state statutes outlines the local guidelines on intestate succession. Here it states that one’s surviving spouse inherits all of their assets should they leave behind no lineal descendants (the same is true if one’s descendants are also the descendants of the spouse). If one’s descendants are not biologically related to the surviving spouse (or the spouse has one or more descendants not biologically related to the decedent), that interest reduces to half the estate.
In cases where there is no surviving spouse, an intestate estate descends in the following order:
- To descendants
- To a decedent’s parents (in equal portion)
- To a decedent’s siblings (and their descendants)
- To a decedent’s paternal and maternal kindred
No allowances for non-family members
Onc notices that no allowances exist for non-family members. One can only stipulate dispositions to such parties in a will.