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Where there’s no will, Florida law has its way

When a person sits down with their estate planning attorney to draft a will, there are often many factors to consider. The factor that comes first to mind for many of us is that a will enables us to decide who will get what. That is, a will tells the state which beneficiary will get certain assets from your estate.

But a will also has other important qualities, including its ability to help you and your family avoid conflict. By making your wishes clearly known, a properly drafted will can minimize disputes.

A will has many other important benefits, of course. Though Florida has no estate tax, there is still a federal estate tax – and a will can help you protect your heirs from punishing taxes.

Many people mistakenly believe that if you die without a will, your assets are passed to the state. An estate planning attorney who lives about 250 miles south of Brevard County wrote recently that it’s “not generally true” that those assets are passed to the state. Instead, the state legislature has passed laws that determine how assets are distributed in what is known as intestate succession.

If there are no descendants, the surviving spouse gets all of the assets. If there are descendants, the surviving spouse gets half of the assets, with the remaining assets distributed like so:

  • To the descendants
  • If there no descendants, the remaining assets go the decedent’s parents
  • If there are no parents, assets go the decedent’s brothers and sisters

And so on. Florida law takes virtually every possible permutation of heirs and potential heirs into account, so that if you die without a will your assets will be distributed.

To take control of where those assets go, speak to a skilled, experienced estate planning lawyer.

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