When a person dies without a valid Will or other Testamentary Instrument in Florida, that person is deemed to have died Intestate.
In such event, the laws of Intestate Succession in Florida set forth the disposition of all property separately owned by the decedent based upon whether the decedent was married at the time of death and whether the decedent left any surviving lineal descendants (such as children or grandchildren) or, in the alternative, other surviving heirs of the decedent.
For example, if a decedent died with a surviving spouse but no surviving lineal descendants, the surviving spouse would inherit all of the decedent’s Intestate Estate. In addition, the surviving spouse would inherit all of the decedent’s Intestate Estate if the decedent is survived by one or more descendants, all of whom are also descendants of the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has no other descendant.
However, if any of the decedent’s lineal descendants are not also lineal descendants of the surviving spouse, or if the surviving spouse has other descendants who are not lineal descendants of the decedent, then the surviving spouse would inherit one-half (½) of the decedent’s Intestate property and lineal descendants would share the other one-half (½).
In the event the decedent did not leave a surviving spouse, but did have lineal descendants surviving at his or her death, then all Intestate property would pass to the decedent’s lineal descendants, again on an equal basis.
If the decedent did not have any lineal descendants or surviving spouse, then all Intestate property would pass, first, to the decedent’s parents, if living; otherwise, to the decedent’s surviving brothers and sisters. There are further provisions under the Florida Law of Intestacy for distribution to more remote relatives if none of the foregoing is living at the time of the decedent’s death. And, if the decedent leaves no ascertainable relatives, his or her entire Estate passes to the State of Florida School Fundby escheat.
The laws of Intestate Succession also apply to determine who inherits property not effectively distributed under a valid Last Will and Testament.
For example, Mr. Smith dies owning two properties: Blackacre and Whiteacre. At his death, Mr. Smith leaves a valid Will which specifically bequeaths Blackacre to a named beneficiary. Mr. Smith is considered to have died Intestate as to Whiteacre, and the Laws of Intestacy govern who inherits that property.