If for some unfortunate reason a person passes without a will, there can be the big question as to who gets what and how the assets are distributed. In the state of Florida, intestate succession laws have been created to help families dish out assets.

Many valuable assets that people build on in their lifetime do not go through a will and therefore would not be affected by intestate succession laws. 401(k) funds, life insurance proceeds, payable-on-death bank accounts and joint tenancy properties are not touched through intestate succession. Instead, these assets will be given to the co-owner.

The rules for how assets are distributed is determined by who is alive at the time of the death. According to intestate succession laws, children inherit everything if their deceased parent didn’t have a spouse. A spouse inherits all appropriate assets if the spouse and deceased had biological descendants. However, if the deceased or their spouse has descendants from a previous relationship, then the intestate property would be split evenly between the surviving spouse and the descendants of the deceased. Parents attain assets if their deceased child never married or had children. In the case of deceased parents but surviving siblings, intestate property would be shared between siblings of the deceased. Half-relatives inherit as if they were “whole” in intestate succession.

Children must be legally considered descendants of the deceased in order to receive their share of the assets. Posthumous children inherit as if they were born before the deceased’s death. Adopted children will receive a share of assets, but fostered children and stepchildren will not. Children born outside of marriage will receive a share only if certain steps are taken. Grandchildren would receive shares in the case that one of the deceased’s children died before the parent.

Stephen K. Hachey, a Florida real estate attorney, can help your wade through this process and determine a positive solution. Contact him at 813-549-0096.

The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. The author takes full responsibility for the content. Like all blog posts, this is offered for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice.