A will is an estate planning document that allows a testator to determine who will get his (or her) property after his death. In the absence of a will, under Florida’s intestate succession statute, the decedent’s probate property will go to the surviving spouse or blood relatives such as children, siblings, or parents. However, when a decedent does not have a surviving spouse or any close blood relatives such as children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles, and dies without making a will, the estate assets then goes to distant relatives such as second or third cousins. If there is a disagreement whether someone is a relative or regarding who has a closer degree of relationship, a kinship proceeding would need to be filed with the Florida circuit court. As a Fort Lauderdale kinship hearing lawyer will explain, during a kinship hearing the Court will hear the testimony and evidence of the claimant(s) and make a decisions as to who is entitled to inherit the decedent’s property.Legal Heirs
Under the Florida Probate Code, only spouses and blood relatives have the right to inherit from a decedent under the rules of intestacy. Blood relatives are defined as children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and cousins. Children who are legally adopted are treated as blood relatives. A child who is adopted out to another family is not considered a blood relative for purposes of kinship and intestate succession. Stepchildren and foster children who were never legally adopted are also not considered blood relatives.Proving Heirship in Florida
Under Florida law, in order to establish kinship, the claimant must establish his or her relationship to the decedent at the kinship hearing. This can be done in a variety of ways such as through witness testimony as well as presenting documents such as birth or death certificates, marriage certificates, family photos, divorce decrees, social security office records, or any other credible public records that can establish that the claimant is a relative of the decedent. In addition, DNA evidence or testimony from a genealogist can be used to support claim of kinship. An experienced Fort Lauderdale kinship hearing attorney can help you obtain the necessary testimony and documentation to support your claim of kinship.Avoiding Problems Associated With Intestate Succession
The best way to ensure that your estate avoids the complications associated with intestate succession such as people coming forward claiming to be heirs is to create a will. With a will you can be very specific as to who will receive your assets once you pass away. If you do not have any close relatives, you can leave your property to friends, employees, and non-profit organizations. Without a will your property may end up in the hands of a distant relative who you may not have ever met. To learn more about how to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, contact an experienced kingship hearing attorney in Fort Lauderdale who will help you develop a comprehensive, customized estate plan that will meet you goals. Such a plan may include not only a will, but a trust, and other estate documents.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
If you have questions about how to prove kinship, the kinship attorneys serving Fort Lauderdale at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates are here to help. Because the process can be long and complicated, it is important that you are represented by someone with experience representing heirs, beneficiaries, and personal representatives in Florida probate proceedings. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.