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What is Florida’s hierarchical order of asset distribution?

On Behalf of | Aug 27, 2023 | Estate Planning & Administration

When it comes to inheritance and estate distribution matters, navigating the legal landscape can be quite complex. One key area worth understanding is the state’s basic approach to intestate succession laws.

When an individual passes away without a valid will or testament in place, their estate is considered intestate. This means that the state’s intestate succession laws will govern the assets and property distribution of the deceased.

The hierarchical order of distribution

Florida intestate succession laws outline a hierarchical order for distributing the deceased’s estate among surviving family members. If the deceased is survived by a spouse but has no descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), the spouse is entitled to the entire estate. However, if there are descendants, the spouse’s share depends on whether the descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse.

If descendants survive the deceased, the estate will be distributed equally among them. This includes children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on. The descendants’ share is divided equally unless specific circumstances require an alternative arrangement.

In cases where the deceased has no surviving spouse or descendants, the estate is distributed to the deceased’s parents. If only one parent is alive, they receive the entire estate. If both parents are alive, the estate is divided equally between them.

Lastly, the estate is distributed to their siblings if the deceased has no surviving spouse, descendants or parents. If only one sibling is alive, they receive the entire estate. Otherwise, the estate is divided equally among the surviving siblings.

Handling half-siblings and other scenarios

Intestate succession becomes more intricate when half-siblings and other relatives come into play. Half-siblings are treated the same as full siblings under state law, helping ensure equal distribution among them. However, if there are no surviving siblings, the estate may pass to more distant relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and even cousins.

Notably, non-family members are not entitled to inherit from the deceased’s estate. This includes close friends, partners and individuals who may have had a close relationship with the deceased but who are not recognized as family via blood or marriage. This is one of the many reasons why individuals should create estate plans while they can. Without a valid will in place, many important people may be left with nothing.

Understanding intestate succession laws is vital for anyone seeking clarity on how estate distribution works when there’s no valid will in place. By familiarizing yourself with the hierarchical order of distribution, considering various scenarios and acknowledging the importance of drafting a will, you can proactively manage your estate and help provide for your loved ones according to your wishes.