Many people put a lot of effort into accumulating assets throughout their lives, but fail to plan who might get those assets once they are gone. A common question fielded by many estate planning experts is what happens if one dies without a will. This question may be less of an inquiry as it is an attempt to secure justification for avoiding estate planning. Yet the choice of who gets what from one’s estate is taken from them (and their presumed heirs) if they fail to leave a will. 

Florida’s state statutes detail how one’s estate will be distributed if they die intestate (without a will). One’s surviving spouse will receive all of the descendant’s assets if they have no living descendants, or if any descendants that they do leave behind are also the descendants of the spouse. If a decedant dies intestate and has descendants who are not related to his or her spouse, then those descendants will share half of the estate, while the remaining half goes to the spouse. If one’s spouse’s preceded the decedant in death, then the intestate estate would pass as follows: 

  • To their descendants
  • If there are no descendants, to their parents 
  • If there are no surviving parents, to their siblings 
  • If there are no siblings, to their grandparents (split equally between both paternal and maternal)
  • If there are no grandparents, to their grandparents’ descendants (again, split equally between paternal and maternal)

One might notice how no provisions are made to people not related to the decedent. If one wishes that such parties receive a portion of their assets, they must specify that in a will. Thus, they cannot afford to be among the 60 percent of Americans that the American Association of Retired Persons reports as having no such document.