Florida Statutes, Section 733.105: Determination of Beneficiaries
A last will and testament allows the testator to leave clear instructions as to what should happen to his (or her) property after he passes away. With a will that is well-written by an experienced attorney, the personal representative responsible for managing the estate will have clear instructions as to how to distribute the assets that remain in the estate after estate debts are paid and claims settled. In the absence of a will, or where the will is not clear about asset distribution, the personal representative is tasked with figuring out who should get the estate property based on Florida’s intestate succession rules. If you are a personal representative, beneficiary, heir, or other interested party in a probate proceeding, and you have questions about the process of asset distribution, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.105- Determination of beneficiaries, contact a skilled Fort Lauderdale intestate succession lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates who has the experience and resources to ensure that your legal rights are protected.Intestate Succession
In order for a personal representative to distribute assets from a decedent’s estate, he (or she) must have clear directions as to who should get what. If there is a will, the will should guide the distribution process. If there is no will, the personal representative must look to Florida’s rules on intestate succession for guidance as to who gets the decedent’s property. Similarly, if there is a will, but the will is not clear, the rules of intestate succession will apply.
According to the intestacy rules, in the absence of a will or a clear will, estate assets are to be distributed to the decedent’s legal heirs. First in line to inherit is always the surviving spouse and the decedent’s children. If the decedent leaves only a surviving spouse, then he or she would be entitled to 100% of the decedent’s probate estate. If the decedent is survived by a spouse as well as children, then the spouse is entitled to 50% of the probate assets and the children are entitled to the other 50%. As a Fort Lauderdale intestate succession lawyer will explain, Florida’s intestate statute is very specific as to the definition of children for purposes of intestate succession. Legally adopted children are entitled to an intestate share, while foster children and children adopted out are not entitled.
In the absence of either a surviving spouse or children, the decedent’s estate will be distributed as follows:
- Father and mother equally, or 100% to the survivor of them
- Brothers and sisters, and the descendants of any deceased brothers and sisters
- 50% to the decedent’s paternal grandparents and 50% to the maternal grandparents
- Other kindred based on an order of priority as described in the statute
According to FL. Stat, section 733.105- Determination of beneficiaries, when there is confusion as to whom is entitled to inherit because the decedent did not leave a will or because the will is not clear, then the personal representative, a beneficiary, an heir, or any other interested party has the right to petition the circuit court to determine who is entitled to what. If the court issues an order determining beneficiaries and based on that order the personal representative distributes estate assets or takes other action, such actions will be fully protected. In other words, the personal representative is shielded from facing personal liability based on actions take pursuant to court order determining beneficiaries. To learn more about the responsibilities of personal representatives and when they may be personally liable for their actions, contact an experienced intestate succession attorney in Fort Lauderdale.Escheat
If the decedent did not leave a valid or clear will, and if the decedent does not have any blood relatives, then his or her probate estate may end up passing to the State of Florida through a process known as escheat. However, this rarely happens because it is quite unusual that a decedent does not have any relatives, including any cousins of any degree.Related Statutory Provisions
- Intestate estate: § 732.101, Fla. Stat.
- Escheat: § 732.107, Fla. Stat.
- Effect of probate: § 733.103, Fla. Stat.
- When property passes by intestate succession or the will is unclear and there is doubt about:
- Who is entitled to receive any part of the property, or
- The shares and amounts that any person is entitled to receive, any interested person may petition the court to determine beneficiaries or their shares.
- Any personal representative who makes distribution or takes any other action pursuant to an order determining beneficiaries shall be fully protected.
- A separate civil action to determine beneficiaries may be brought when an estate has not been administered.
In the absence of a valid will, or when the will is unclear, the personal representative has no choice but to distribute assets based on Florida’s rules of intestate succession. When the personal representative does so as required, his or her actions are protected and he will not face liability. Whether you are a personal representative or other interested party, it is important to clarify questions related to asset distributions with an experienced estate succession attorney who understands the requirements related to asset distribution, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.105- Determination of beneficiaries. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have over twenty years of experience representing clients in matters related to estate administration, estate litigation, and other estate matters. Contact an attorney in our office at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.