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The eternal question: Who gets your stuff when you die?

The eternal question of who gets your stuff can be answered pretty quickly and easily. For instance, if you have a will, it is essentially a set of instructions for how your property is to be distributed.

But what happens if you die without a will? In the event you die “intestate” (without a will), the state of Florida – not you or your loved ones – will decide who will get your assets.

A recent newspaper column by a financial planner summed it up pretty nicely: “the government chooses your heirs instead of you.” Your heirs might not like the state’s decisions, but because you chose not to write a will, Florida is in charge of what goes to whom.

The state of Florida’s probate court will distribute your real estate, your bank accounts, and so on.

The person at the head of the line of potential heirs will be a surviving spouse. (If you die without a will and you have a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend, they should not expect the probate court to share your assets with them.) If there’s a surviving spouse and children, it can get complicated if the children are from another marriage, for instance.

It can also be complicated if the person who dies without a will is a Brevard County business owner. The heir might be someone who has no interest in the business, but because of a decision by the probate court, is now owner or part owner.

Hopefully, it is clear that the easiest, simplest way to ward off these potential problems for your loved ones is to sit down with an estate planning attorney and at the very least, create a will. In many situations, it will make sense to create a trust and make use of other powerful estate planning tools that will save your loved ones time, money and heartache.

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