When a person dies without a will, intestacy law takes over. The person’s estate is considered intestate, and a state statute dictates how the person’s assets will be distributed and to which heirs. While most people in Florida associate the word heirs with a person’s children, it can actually be applied in a much broader fashion. Parents, spouses, cousins and anyone who receives something from an estate after a person’s death is an heir. 

Intestate law applies differently depending on whether the person was married, single or had children. For example, a person with a living spouse but no children would have all of his or her estate left to his or her spouse. However, even if the deceased had surviving children, if he or she parented those children with the surviving spouse, the kids still do not get anything — it all goes to the wife or husband. It gets more complicated from here, and addresses what happens if the surviving spouse has a child from a different partner. In that case, the spouse only gets half of the estate and the children get the other half. 

Individuals who pass away without a spouse can expect their estate to be split evenly among their children. But what about those who were not survived by spouses or children? In that case, all assets go to surviving parents. No living parents? Then any brothers and sisters are considered heirs, and if there are no living siblings then even more distantly-related family will receive the inheritance. 

How certain property is titled can also complicate how intestate laws are enforced. Considering that it is already an extremely complicated matter, most people in Florida would be well advised to begin estate planning as early in their adulthood as possible. Not only does creating a will and comprehensive estate plan give individuals more control over their assets, it also alleviates some of the burden shouldered by grieving families.