Every person should have a will. In Florida, a will is the best way to ensure that all of your property goes to the people of your choosing upon your death. While there are other important estate planning vehicles such as trusts that allow you to pass property to individuals of your choosing, a last will and testament is the only way that any property that is left in your probate estate will be passed to beneficiaries of your choosing. In the absence of a valid will any property that remains in your probate estate will go to your next of kin under the rules of intestate succession. This will be the result even if you would not want your next of kin to inherit it. To learn more about the importance of a will and the requirements for executing a legally enforceable last will and testament, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale intestate succession lawyer.Your Legal Heirs
Under Florida law only surviving spouses and specific blood relatives are your potential legal heirs. In the absence of a valid will, if you have a surviving spouse but no children (or grandchildren), 100% of your probate estate will go to your surviving spouse. If you are survived by your spouse and you have children, your spouse will receive 50% of your estate, and the rest of your estate will go to your children in equal shares. If you pass away with no spouse but with children , your children will share equally in 100% of your estate. Your deceased children’s children (your grandchildren) will received your child’s share. Florida rules of intestate succession also provide for when parents, grandparents, siblings, and other blood relatives will be entitled to receive a portion of your estate.
As a Fort Lauderdale intestate succession lawyer will explain, under the Probate Code, friends, organizations, non-blood relatives, and even certain blood relatives will not be legally entitled to inherit. What this means is that instead of you controlling who gets your property, the State of Florida will decide. It is very possible that a relative that you hardly know, or a relative who you do not like will end up with your property. In addition, estate litigation is more likely in instances where there is not a valid will. For a variety of reasons it is critical that you have a will that was properly drafted and executed as required by Florida law.Probate Property
Not all property is probate property. There may be property in your estate that passes to beneficiaries outside of your will. This property will go to those beneficiaries regardless of whether or not you have a will. Such property includes:
- Real estate and personal property owned and held in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.
- Real and personal property transferred to a living trust prior to the death of the settlor.
- Money placed in a bank account with a pay-on-death (POD) designation.
- Investment accounts with a transfer-on-death (TOD) designation.
- Proceeds of life insurance policy that are payable to a named beneficiary.
- Annuity contract with a named beneficiary.
- IRAs with a named beneficiary (not an estate).
- U.S. Savings bonds payable on death to a named beneficiary.
As an experienced intestate succession attorney in Fort Lauderdale will explain, not only is non-property not distributed according to Florida’s intestate succession statute, it is not distributed according to a decedent’s will, it is not subject to estate administration, and it is not subject to claims of the decedent’s creditors.
Property that is part of a probate estate and will be impacted by the lack of a will includes personal property such as your vehicles, jewelry, clothing, home furnishings, collectibles, pets, appliances, and bank accounts.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
To avoid the drawbacks associated with intestacy it is a good idea to discuss your overall estate plan with an experienced attorney to create not only a will, but also other estate planning documents that will ensure that your wishes are fulfilled and that your family and friends are taken care of in the manner you contemplate. The experienced intestate succession attorneys serving Fort Lauderdale at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates are here to help. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.