What happens if I die without a will?

There are so many reasons to plan your estate, no matter how young or old you are. It’s important to think ahead to ensure peace of mind for your loved ones. And yet, 55 percent of Americans don’t have a will in place by the time they die. That leaves families vulnerable to stressful and costly legal battles that often drag on for years.

Facing your own mortality isn’t pleasant. But death is inevitable for all of us; it’s just a question of when. No matter your age or financial situation, you should consider:

Who will get custody of my children if you and your spouse die? How do I want to be buried? Who gets my house and money?

It’s easy to assume that everything will go to your spouse, or, if you aren’t married, your closest living relative. But that’s not always the case.

A person who dies without a will in place has died intestate. That means that legally, you would have zero influence over who receives your assets, which go into probate. Your relatives, as a result, could be left fighting over your estate in court, a costly and time-consuming process that could permanently damage their relationships with one another.

The Florida Probate Code outlines what is likely to happen if someone dies without a will based on his or her marital status, whether community or separate property (property obtained during or prior to the marriage) is involved and whether or not children and/or other relatives are in the picture. Here’s a look at the possibilities.

  • A spouse and children: The surviving spouse inherits all of the deceased spouse’s probate estate. If the surviving spouse has children with someone who is not the deceased’s children, the estate will be split in half between the surviving spouse and the deceased’s children. still receives the entire probate estate.
  • Descendants only: The descendants inherit the entire probate estate.
  • A spouse, but no children or other relatives:  The surviving spouse inherits the probate estate.
  • No spouse or children: The probate estate will go to the deceased’s parents or brothers and sisters.

Keep things as simple as possible for your family. Hire an experienced Florida estate planning lawyer and get a will in place as soon as possible.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.