What Happens If You Pass Away Without a Will?

Coffin at funeral

You’ve heard it many times—estate planning is important. And yet, many people put off estate planning until it cannot be postponed any longer. Knowing exactly what will happen to your assets should you pass away without an estate plan in place may help you reach your estate planning goals a little more quickly.

Living Trust

First, it’s important to note that a will isn’t your only option for estate planning. In many cases, people choose a living trust that maintains ownership of their assets and allows them to be distributed without going through probate. If you go this route, you may still need a will to convey your funeral and burial wishes.

Intestate Succession

If you pass away without a will, the court system has no way to know how you would like your assets divided and distributed. For that reason, they must follow intestate succession laws. Florida intestate succession is fairly similar to what you’ll find in many other states. In general, assets are passed down in the following order, moving on to the next person in the list if the first isn’t applicable:

  • Spouse and descendants who are related to both you and your spouse: Spouse receives 100% of the probate estate
  • Spouse, descendants who are related to the spouse, and descendants who are not related to the spouse: Estate is split 50%/50% between the spouse and the descendants
  • Spouse and no dependents: 100% of the estate goes to the surviving spouse
  • Descendants and no spouse: The entire estate goes to the descendants

If you do not have any descendants, the line of succession goes through your parents, siblings or descendants of siblings, and any members of the maternal or paternal family.

Consequences of Intestacy

Failing to prepare a Will or living trust can have a range of unintended consequences. For example, consider an adult child who is estranged from the family and has not spoken with you in years. Even if you no longer consider them family or do not want your money to fund their choices, they will inherit property after your death if you do not have a will in place. If you live in a spouse-like relationship with a partner but never officially marry, they will receive nothing if you die without a will.

Property That Isn’t Affected by Intestate Succession

Certain assets are not held to intestate succession laws, including:

  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Retirement accounts
  • Pay-on-death bank accounts
  • Securities in a transfer-on-death account
  • Property in joint tenancy
  • Assets in a living trust

Estate planning is essential if you want to make the most of the assets you’ve earned throughout your life. Learn more about your estate planning options now by contacting Schlegel Livingston, LLC at 954-771-8929.

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Schlegel Livingston LLC

Schlegel Livingston, LLC is an established real estate and probate/estate planning law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We pride ourselves on being a very hands-on law office who will help our clients by any means necessary.

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