Why do you need a Will?: Here are the Default Rules

Any person who does not make a will is agreeing to have all their assets distributed after their death using the default rules the Florida Legislature has established.  In essence, that person has allowed politicians in Tallahassee to write their will for them.  These rules are known as the rules of intestate succession.

Here are the rules of intestate succession; you may realize that these rules aren’t right for you:

1. If you are married at the time of your death and you and your spouse do not have children from other relationships, then your spouse gets your entire estate.  If you have children with your spouse, there’s an unwritten presumption that your spouse will provide for your children (they are not obligated to do so).

2. If you are married and either you or your spouse has children from other relationships, then your spouse gets one-half of your estate.

3. Whatever is not distributed to a spouse is distributed as follows:

a. If you have any descendants, they get all of your property.  A descendant is a child of yours, a grandchild, a great-grandchild, and so on.
b. If you do not have descendants, then your father and mother keep all your property if, either or both of them are still alive.
c. If you do not have descendants or living parents, then your brothers and sisters and the descendants of your deceased brothers and sisters get your property.  Half brothers and sisters only get half as much as whole brothers and sisters.
d.  If you do not have descendants, living parents, or brothers or sisters, then half of your property will be distributed to your maternal family and the other half to your paternal family as follows:

i.  Your grandfather and grandmother share their half of the property.
ii.  If there is no grandfather or grandmother living, then uncles and aunts and the descendants of dead uncles and aunts share that half of the property.
iii. If either the paternal or maternal side of your family does not have any living members, then the other side gets all of the property.

4. If none of these provisions apply to distribute your property, then if any of the descendants of your great-grandparents were Holocaust victims, then the descendants of your great-grandparents would get your property.

5. If none of the provisions above apply and there is still property to be distributed, then that property goes to the State of Florida.

This is a simplification of the rules, and believe me, there’s more.  These are bright-line rules.  It doesn’t matter if you hated your brother or if one of your children is richer than the others.  A probate court would just apply the rules as written.  There is no room for discretion.

For most people, there is something about these rules that they don’t like.  If this is the case for you, then get a will done.