A last will or estate plan allows someone control over their legacy when they die. They can grant assets and possessions to specific people or even contribute toward charity as one of their final acts.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the foresight or desire to plan for their own death. It also sometimes happens that someone may have created an estate plan or last will, but no one knows where to find it.
When someone dies without a will, people say that they have died intestate. In that situation, the estate must almost always go through Florida probate courts before the surviving family members and heirs have access to the estate of the deceased.
Florida law closely governs how the courts dispose of property in the event of those who die without a will. The people with the closest relationships to the deceased have the most protections and consideration under Florida law.
Spouses receive the most protection in the event of intestate death
Even if a spouse did not work, they still contributed to the value of the marital home and overall marital assets. It would certainly not be fair to deprive someone of assets they helped to obtain or maintain. If the deceased has a surviving spouse and surviving children with their spouse, the spouse inherits 100 percent of the estate.
Similarly, in a situation where there are no children or descendants but only a spouse, the spouse will receive the full amount of the estate. In the event that there are children or descendants but no spouse, those descendants then receive the full estate. However, situations can quickly become complicated when there isn't a will for someone in a blended family.
In the event that the deceased has children who are not the children of the surviving spouse, those children have an equal claim to the estate. Typically, the courts will split it in half between the the children and the spouse. This can give rise to contention between children and stepparents in probate court.
Other relations may have estate rights as well
In cases where the deceased didn't have any children and wasn't married, their parents and siblings may have a claim to the estate. If the parents of the deceased are alive, they typically receive the full estate. If the parents are deceased, the siblings and the descendants of siblings who have already died will receive the estate.
If there are no surviving close familial relatives, the courts may split the estate between the more distant relatives in the family. If there are no known family members, the state of Florida will receive the assets in the estate. Those who were close to the deceased but neither married nor related to them will have no rights of inheritance in a situation without a last will.