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Understanding intestate succession

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2019 | Firm News |

Even though most people in Pompano Beach likely understand the need for estate planning, many may understandably feel uncomfortable when approaching the topic. There is always the concern that no matter how inclusive one might try to be with a will, there is bound to be disappointment among some heirs regarding their stake in the estate.

Fear of offending a loved ones may even prompt some people to avoid creating a will altogether, thinking instead that if they do not detail their wishes, their heirs will be able to decide how to divide their assets themselves. Yet that may not be the case.

Intestate succession law

If people do not leave behind a will, their estate becomes subject to local laws regulating intestate succession (“intestate” is the term used to describe a situation where one died without a will). Florida’s state statutes stipulate that the order of succession of an intestate estate should be:

  • The surviving spouse
  • Descendants
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Next of kin

If someone had no surviving relatives of any kind, then their intestate estate would go to the surviving kin of their predeceased spouse. If they never married, their estate would go to their descendants, as designated by Florida law.

Intestate succession law makes no allowances to any people or parties not related to the decedent. If someone hopes to have an unrelated party (e.g. a friend, business partner, museum or charitable organization) benefit from their estate, he or she must explain that in a will.

The surviving spouse’s entitlement

When one who dies intestate leaves behind a spouse, the spouse inherits the entirety of the estate, if the decedent has no living descendants or those who are still alive are also the descendants of the spouse. If the decedent’s descendants are not biologically related to their surviving spouse (or the spouse has descendants who are not the lineal descendants of the decedent), the decedent’s spouse’s share is one-half of the estate, with the remaining half divided among those descendants equally.