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Inheritance Laws In Florida, explained

Dying without a will in Florida means that your assets are subject to the state’s inheritance laws. Here’s what you need to know.

Florida Inheritance Laws

What is an inheritance law?

Inheritance laws usually become necessary when a person dies without leaving a valid will, thereby passing away without clear instructions on how their belongings will be passed on to their loved ones. Because estates still need to be dealt with even without the presence of a will, Florida has specific inheritance laws that come into play once someone dies intestate—meaning that they died without a will. These are also known as Florida’s Intestate Succession Laws.

What inheritance laws mean for you

If someone dies without a will in Florida, the only people eligible to inherit the estate are immediate relatives. Dying without a will gives the state total control over how the estate is distributed, and to whom. Whatever you may have wished to do with your money—leave that family heirloom to your niece, give your best friend your house, or donate your money to charity—becomes irrelevant.

Inheritance laws also disregard what kind of relationship someone may have had with their family members before they passed. It doesn’t matter whether a parent was estranged from their children or whether a separated couple still remained close and had a good relationship. The court will follow an established line of succession to determine how the estate will be distributed.

Spouses in Florida Inheritance Law

If someone dies and leaves behind a spouse who they were legally married to at the time of death, the spouse is first in line to inherit everything. If there were no children, either from the couple or from the deceased’s previous relationship, then the surviving spouse is the sole heir.

If the married couple had children at the time of the estate holder’s death, then the spouse still inherits everything. However, if the deceased had children from another relationship, then the spouse inherits 50% of the estate, while the children inherit the other half.

Divorces in Florida Inheritance Law

If someone dies and was formally divorced from their spouse before their death, then the divorced spouse has no claims to the estate. However, if the couple was only separated by the time the estate holder dies, or if they pass during the divorce proceedings, then the spouse still has a claim to the estate.

Children in Florida Inheritance Law

As mentioned above, children of the deceased will share the inheritance with the spouse of the deceased. However, if the deceased was not legally married at the time of death, then the children inherit everything. A grandchild will only be eligible to inherit if their parent—ie. the child of the deceased—was already deceased by the time of the estate holder’s death.

Single individuals without children in Florida Inheritance Law

If someone passed away and was not married nor did they have any children, then Florida’s succession laws will start going down the family tree to find the next of kin. First in line are the deceased’s parents, who would inherit the entire estate. If there are no living parents, then the deceased’s siblings would inherit the estate. If there are no siblings, then aunts and uncles or nieces and nephews would be next in line.

The state of Florida would continue going down this line of succession until they find whoever is the next living relative. In the unlikely event that no one can be found, the deceased’s estate will “escheat” to the state, meaning that the assets will go to the state.

Non-probate inheritance in Florida

There are some assets that can skip the probate process wherein the state determines to whom they’ll be distributed. Non-probate assets usually go directly to a joint owner or named beneficiary, and can include payable-upon-death financial accounts and joint accounts with right to inherit, which are paid out to the beneficiary.

Florida is also a state that recognizes Tenancy By Entireties, which refers to a Florida law designating that surviving spouses automatically become the sole owners of any asset that was jointly held by the couple. Assets held in this capacity are also exempt from probate and go directly to the surviving spouse.

If you’re curious about learning more on Florida’s inheritance laws and how you can best provide for your loved ones once you’re gone, get in touch for a free consultation with ClearEstate today to learn more.

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