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If an individual, the “decedent,” dies intestate (without a Florida will), Section 732.102 and 732.103 of the Florida Probate Code provide for the distribution of assets, first and foremost, to the surviving spouse and lineal descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.).

So, say an individual dies in Florida with $100,000.00 in his personal checking account and no other assets, and he leaves no Florida Will to govern the distribution of those funds. At the time of his death, he is married with two children. If both of his children are also his wife’s children (i.e. not from a previous marriage, etc.), upon the man’s death, his wife will receive a flat sum of $60,000.000 plus one-half of his remaining estate, in this case, $20,000.00, for a total of $80,000.00. His children will share whatever is left, in this case, $20,000.00, for a total of $10,000.00 per child. But if the man’s two children are not both also children of his wife – if, say, his older son was born out of wedlock to a former girlfriend – his wife will only receive one-half of his estate upon his death ($50,000), and his two children will share the remaining one-half of his estate ($50,000.00, or $25,000.00 per child).

If the individual is not married when he dies, or his wife died before him, but his two children are still alive, his children will share his whole estate ($50,000.00 per child). Similarly, if the man dies without children, but his wife is still alive, his wife will take his entire estate – the whole $100,000.00. So, essentially, if the man fails to make a Florida will and is survived by either his wife or his children or both, no one else – i.e. his parents, siblings, friends, etc. – will receive any part of his estate.

Assume now, however, that the man is unmarried and childless when he dies. He still has $100,000.00 in his checking account – where does it go? If his parents are alive, each parent will receive one-half of his estate (or the sole surviving parent will receive his whole estate). If his parents are not alive, but he has one or more siblings, his siblings will share equally his whole estate. If the man dies with no living parents or siblings, the courts will look for any living blood relative of him or his wife (if he had been married at some point, and his wife died while still married to him), but if none are found, the man’s estate falls to the State of Florida – and you then are the beneficiary of his life savings.

The point is that the state will hardly distribute your wealth amongst your loved ones in a manner that reflects your wishes, unless you leave a will, trust or other such instrument. You should consult with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney to discuss your options.

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