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What happens to your assets if you don't have a will in Florida?

A will is the basic estate planning document and most Floridians know that this essential tool lays the foundation for a good estate plan. But there are still many individuals who have not taken this important first step and have not prepared their wills. So what happens to one's assets if they die without a will?

In Florida, if someone dies without a will then their assets are considered "intestate." What this means is that the laws of Florida take effect and they determine how a decedent's assets will be distributed. This applies to all of a person's assets with the exception of any real estate that is not in Florida.

If the person who died had a spouse and there are no other individuals who descend from that person, such as children, then the spouse will inherit all of the estate. This will also apply if the person who died had a spouse and children with that spouse. However, if the decedent had a spouse and children but that spouse had children from another relationship, then the spouse only inherits one half of the estate while the decedent's children will receive the other half.

The situation can get even more confusing if the person who died had children with two different spouses. In that event, then the spouse who was married to the decedent at the time of death gets half of the estate while all of the children from both marriages receive the other half. However, the situation is far simpler if the decedent had parents but no spouse or children. In that case, the parents inherit all of the person's assets. Likewise, if a person had siblings, but no parents, children or spouses, then the siblings receive the assets.

As is evident from this discussion, dying without a will can be confusing and potentially costly for a decedent's family. Therefore, a Florida resident may want to consult with an estate planning attorney in order to develop a solid will and estate plan.

Source: estate.findlaw.com, "What happens if you die without a will?," Accessed Aug. 17, 2015

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