Basics of Intestate Succession in the State of Florida

Intestacy – the status of passing away without having a will in place – poses issues for the handling of a person’s assets. If a person dies with a will in place, then settling that person’s affairs is typically straightforward. Things become more complicated when a person dies without a will. Intestate succession is the process of determining how someone’s property will be passed down when they die without a will. Each state has its own laws on this matter. In this post, we will discuss some of the basics of Florida’s state laws on intestate succession. We will cover property which cannot be passed down, the “table of succession,” and a few additional facts.

Certain Assets Cannot Be Passed Down

One thing you should know when it comes to intestate succession is that not every piece of property can be passed down intestate. Only certain types of property may be passed down; non-eligible property will be disposed of according to separate rules. The following types of property cannot be passed down through intestate succession:

  • Retirement accounts (i.e. IRA, 401(k), etc.)
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Assets held in a joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety arrangement
  • Property entrusted to a living trust
  • Assets held within a “transfer upon death” account

Again, these types of property won’t be eligible for intestate succession because these things have their own rules governing transfer. For instance, life insurance policies designate a beneficiary, as do trusts, and so these policies will automatically disburse benefits to the rightful person.

Table of Succession in Florida

When it comes down to determining how property will be distributed when someone dies intestacy, everything ultimately depends on which people survive the person who passed on. Florida has a “table of succession” of sorts, in which we can determine precisely how property will be transferred in a given situation. We can present the table as follows:

  • If a spouse survives, but no descendants, then the spouse inherits all property
  • If descendants survive, but there is no spouse, then the descendants inherit all property
  • If a spouse survives, and there are descendants, and those descendants derive from the deceased person and that spouse, then the spouse inherits all property
  • If parents survive, but no spouse or descendants, then parents inherit all property
  • If siblings survive, but there is no surviving spouse, or parents, or descendants, then the siblings inherit all property
  • If a spouse survives, and descendants from you and another person also survive, then the spouse and your descendants share the property 50% / 50%
  • If a spouse survives, and descendants who derive from you and that spouse also survive, and other children survive who derive from the spouse and someone else, then the deceased person’s children and the spouse share the property 50% / 50%

As you can see, the State of Florida has rules which govern essentially every conceivable scenario. Florida even has rules governing scenarios involving adopted children, foster children, stepchildren, grandchildren, children born out-of-wedlock, and so forth. We will discuss these additional rules in a future article.

The State May Inherit Your Assets

Many people are curious about whether the state can receive someone’s property if that person dies intestate. The answer is yes, but the state can only receive the assets under certain circumstances. Specifically, if a person dies intestate, and that person has no surviving family, and no surviving spouse, then that person’s assets will be transferred to the State of Florida by default. As readers can imagine, however, this scenario doesn’t happen very often, and so the State of Florida receives property via intestate succession only on rare occasions.

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If you’d like to learn more, please reach out to the Denise Jomarron Legal Group today by calling (305) 402-4494.

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