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When do intestate succession laws control the distribution of assets?

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Estate Planning |

When someone dies in Florida, family members often begin looking for evidence that the deceased created an estate plan. The decedent could have left specific guidelines for the distribution of their property. Wills and other documents can provide clear instructions about someone’s personal property after their death.

Most families are grateful for the time that individuals commit to creating an estate plan. Having documents on record reduces conflict among family members and those who expect to be beneficiaries of the estate. People can feel confident that the inheritance they receive is something that the testator wanted to pass to them.

In some scenarios, Florida state law determines what happens with an individual’s property. Intestate succession laws sometimes dictate the distribution of an individual’s assets after their death. Florida’s intestate succession laws heavily favored close family members, including spouses, children and parents. When do intestate succession laws apply to an estate?

When someone dies without a will

Some researchers estimate that approximately two-thirds of adults in the United States do not have estate plans. They lack even a simple will. If they die without any documents in place, intestate succession laws help ensure that their close, dependent family members receive the resources from their estate. Spouses and children are often the primary or sole beneficiaries of intestate estates. Intestate succession laws can also help families who believe will likely exist but are unable to locate it in the home of the decedent or similar locations where people are likely to store important documents.

When the family contests the plan

In some scenarios, disputes about the estate plan could be what leads to intestate succession in Florida. If family members or beneficiaries contest a will based on concerns about undue influence, incapacity or incredibly outdated documents, the courts may sometimes set a will or other estate planning documents aside. If there is not an older version of those documents to refer to, then the courts may treat the estate as though someone died without an estate plan at all.

Understanding when intestate succession rules apply may benefit those with an interest in the administration of a Florida estate. Intestate succession can often be a complex process, and families that know the law can handle intestate estate proceedings appropriately.