Dying Without a Will: Letting Tallahassee Decide Who Inherits from YouPosted on December 7, 2015, by Nicholas Medley
If you die without a will, then the law calls that dying “intestate” (as opposed to dying with a will, which is called “testate”). Many people don’t bother getting a will, because they figure it doesn’t matter: if they die, their spouse gets everything, and if their spouse has already died by that time, their kids get everything split equally. Easy, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. If you die intestate, then Florida’s intestate statutes (Chapter 732, if you’d like to look them up) dictate who inherits your probate assets. Here are the general rules:
- If the decedent (a/k/a the deceased person) did not leave behind any descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), then their surviving spouse inherits everything. If the decedent was survived by descendants, but did not leave behind a spouse, then the inheritance is split equally between the descendants.
- If the decedent did leave behind descendants as well as a spouse, and those descendants are also the descendants of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse still inherits everything. For example, if a person dies and is survived by his wife and their two children, his wife inherits the entire estate.
- If the decedent did leave behind descendants as well as a spouse, and at least one of those descendants is not a descendant of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse inherits 50% and the other 50% is divided equally between the descendants who are not also descendants of the surviving spouse. For example, a person dies and is survived by her husband and three children. One of those children is also child of the surviving husband, but the other two children are the decedent’s children from a previous marriage (in other words, the surviving husband’s step-children). In this case, the surviving husband would inherit 50% of the estate, and the other two children (the step-children of the surviving husband) would split the other 50%, each winding up with 25% apiece.