What happens if I die without a will?

Mar 20, 2020

Paul S. Labiner

Paul Labiner


If you die without leaving a will, you risk your property and assets being distributed in ways you did not want. The reason for this is that when you die without a will, you are deemed “intestate” (from Latin in + testamentum “not having a will”) and the intestacy laws of Florida govern how, when, and to whom your assets and property will be distributed.

Florida’s intestacy statute lists which members of your family receive what and in what order. Unfortunately, everything rests upon blood relations, so longtime friends or caretakers will not receive any of your estate.

Even if you would leave your entire estate to your legal heirs or next of kin, there is no advantage to dying without a will. For example, you lose the opportunity to designate a personal representative, trustee, guardian for minor children, and to do valuable tax planning. Without taking such steps, you could force your family to undergo a protracted, expensive, and public probate process before receiving your assets.

With a well-drafted will you can avoid legal pitfalls, name a personal representative of your estate, name a guardian for your children, establish trusts, and minimize probate-related costs by providing for independent administration. Dying without a will may cause unexpected costs and delays and undesired results for the decedent’s family.

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