If You Die Without a Will, who is in Charge of Your Estate?

At the end of a long day where it seems that life is a mess and you’re the one who has to do everything for everybody, did you ever wonder what the world would be like if you were no longer around? Who would do everything that you do now? And if you died without having a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) in place who would be in charge of your estate?

In today’s post we’ll answer that question.

But fair warning; you may not like the answer.

Testacy and Intestacy.

In the world of trusts and estates, when a person dies, he or she does so either “testate” or “intestate.”  If you die “testate,” it means that you executed a Will before your death. If you die “intestate,” it means you did not.

The difference is critical, because whether or not you died having a Will (i.e., intestate, or testate) determines what happens to your property and who will be in charge of making decisions for your estate.

If you executed a Will before your death, (assuming it is valid and uncontested etc.), the court will distribute your property in accordance with its terms.

If you died without a Will, however, the court will use your state’s laws to decide who will get what.

Laws of Intestacy

Florida’s intestacy laws govern who can be your heirs and how their shares are to be distributed.

Intestacy can be in whole (e.g., you die without a Will or your Will is declared invalid) or in part (e.g., you have a Will, but a portion of it is held to be invalid).

The intestacy statute also determines who will be in charge of making the decisions about your property.

When there is no Will to tell the court who you want as your personal representative, the probate judge must choose one for you.  The judge does this by following the intestate statute. In Florida, the spouse of a decedent has the first right to be appointed as the personal representative. If you are not married at the time of your death, the judge will proceed through the statute to the next available and eligible person.

So, who will control your estate when you die without a Will?

It all depends on what the law allows and what the judge decides.

Talk to Our Estate Planning Attorneys

Our team here at SJF Law Group works hard to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. Our estate planning lawyers expertly guide individuals and families through the complex probate process and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of estates and trusts. When you work with our Florida estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind.

As trusted probate and estate planning lawyers, we serve clients in the vibrant communities of Plantation, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Miami, FL. We are also pleased to offer the options of both in-person and virtual appointments throughout Florida to make our services accessible no matter where you are located.

If you want to discuss your specific situations with one of our estate planning lawyers, do not hesitate to reach out to our law firm at 954-580-3690. You can also fill out our contact form.

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