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What are the risks of dying without an estate plan in Florida?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2022 | Estate Planning |

In Florida, people are frequently advised as to the value of having even a basic estate plan. The refrains include statements about protecting loved ones, how simple it is, why it is important and what can happen if a person does not take the initiative and create an estate plan. In the real world, though, dying intestate can cause a litany of problems that have a lasting effect on loved ones.

This can spark endless disputes among heirs as to how the property will be divided, who has a right to it and how the disagreements will be settled. Instead of discussing the benefits of having an estate plan, it can be more effective to know the drawbacks of not having one based on the law of intestate succession.

Key issues that arise when there is no estate plan

When the person dies intestate, the properties will pass to the heirs in a certain order. A surviving spouse will get the entire estate if that person is the only surviving heir. If there are one or more descendants of the decedent and the surviving spouse and there are no other descendants, the spouse gets the entire estate.

If there are descendants who are not descendants of the surviving spouse, the spouse gets half of the estate. When there are one or more descendants of the decedent and the surviving spouse with the surviving spouse having at least one descendant who is not related to the person who died, the spouse gets half of the estate.

Other heirs will get a share of the property left over when it does not go to the spouse. The descendants will get part of the estate. The parents will get an equal share of the estate if there are no descendants. Siblings will get the estate if the parents have died and there are no descendants.

Other relatives will get the property sequentially with half of it going to the mother’s relatives and the other half to the father’s relatives; the grandparents or their survivors; aunts, uncles and their descendants. As this shows, it can get confusing and muddled to die without a will.

If there are relatives who are “half-blood,” they will get half as much as they would have if they were “whole-blood.” If an heir was born after the decedent has died, they will be treated as if they were alive when the person died and get an appropriate share of the estate.

Consulting with professionals can explain the importance of estate planning

As this shows, people who have complicated family trees will inevitably lead to complicated cases of distributing property if the person died intestate. Dying with a will places people in a situation where they are reliant on state laws to navigate the matter.

Often, they are left disappointed with the outcome. For example, a person might have been separated from their spouse but not gone through the legal channels to make that clear. After they have died, the spouse – who might have been estranged – will be legally entitled to a certain amount of the estate or even all of it. Children who otherwise would have received more will not get what the person likely wanted.

Because so many problems can arise with dying intestate, it is imperative to consider these issues and understand the process of crafting a will or a trust to account for their needs and desires. Simply discussing the case with experienced professionals can provide information and guidance and help with avoiding the challenges that come up when there is no estate plan. Calling for help is the first step and most will likely realize that it is wise to have an estate plan and move forward with it.



Photo of Jennifer D. Sharpe