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What Happens if You Die Without an Estate Plan?

Mon Aug 31, 2020 | Estate Planning |

One of the principal benefits of having an estate plan is peace of mind. Your estate plan is how you will continue to provide for your family as you approach your later years and even after you are gone. Understandably, it’s something that many people simply don’t want to think about, and in some cases, they die without an estate plan. This can cause considerable hardship for your family, both in terms of their financial needs, as well as the stress and uncertainty that results. 

Don’t leave your family wondering what will happen after you’ve gone. A Boca Raton estate planning attorney can help you draft a thorough estate plan that meets all of your needs and protects the people that you love most. 

Confusion, Frustration, and Anxiety

Typically, after someone dies without a will, the family is thrown into a state of confusion. How will the family gain control of your assets? Who is entitled to what? Who should take responsibility for distributing your assets, paying the taxes, and dealing with any claims against the estate? What would you have wanted? 

The confusion that arises then immediately leads to frustration and anxiety as your family tries to answer these questions. Regrettably, this also can lead to in-fighting among your friends and relatives, and even litigation.  

Intestate Succession

If you die without an estate plan in Florida, your estate will pass to your heirs through a process known as intestate succession. In other words, your assets will be distributed as provided for by Florida law: 

  • Your spouse will inherit everything if you died with no children or have children only with your spouse and they have no other children.
  • Your children will inherit everything if you died with no spouse.
  • Your parents will inherit everything if you die with no spouse or children.
  • Your siblings will inherit everything if you die with no spouse, children, or parents.

The laws on intestate succession attempt to make distribution of an estate as simple as possible. However, the situation becomes more complicated for blended families: 

  • If your spouse survives you and your spouse has children from another relationship, your spouse will inherit half of your property and your children will inherit the other half.
  • If your spouse survives and you have children from another relationship, your spouse will inherit half of your property and your children will inherit the other half. 

Some Property is Not Affected by Intestate Succession

Some property will not pass according to the laws of intestate succession. The general rule is that it applies only to property that could be inherited through a will. As a result, some assets may be distributed outside of intestate succession. For example:

  • Bank accounts or securities that are payable-on-death
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Real estate owned with someone else by tenancy by the entirety or joint tenancy
  • Retirement accounts

Generally speaking, these assets are inherited according to the property’s legal title (such as with real estate) or according to who is named as the beneficiary (as with life insurance). As a result, one person could inherit an arguable windfall if they are named as a beneficiary on a valuable asset and also inherit your assets via intestate succession.  

Need an Estate Plan? Contact a Boca Raton Estate Planning Attorney

Providing for your family means protecting their future. The Boca Raton estate planning attorneys at Ellis Law Group can help you develop an estate plan that achieves your goals and meets their needs. Let us help – call us at 561-910-7500 or contact us online to begin working on your estate plan today.