What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
In our previous blog post titled, “Probate & Guardianship,” we touched on some of the requirements necessary for a will to be valid in Florida. However, what happens if you do not have a will or your will is not valid? In these cases, the state declares the individual to have died “intestate,” and your property follows a chain of succession to determine the owner. First, the state awards your property to your surviving spouse. If your spouse has also passed away, then your property is given to your children starting with the oldest child and continuing in succession if the oldest child has passed away. If you do not have children then the state awards your property to your parents and siblings, respectively. Often this process takes many years and requires your loved ones to endure the time and expense of going to probate court.
Is Probate Required in Florida?
In nearly every circumstance where an individual dies without a will, the family will be subjected to probate court. Probate is necessary to pay creditors and determine the beneficiaries of the property. Any property that the deceased held as sole owner such as a bank account or land will need to pass through probate court if there is no valid will. Not only do loves ones need to pay court fees in probate court, but the process can become so complicated that a lawyer will be a necessity.
What Happens if My Will is Not Self-Proving?
However, having a valid will does not automatically protect your loved ones from the burden and expense of probate court after your death. Even if you have a valid will, your loved ones could still be required to go to court. If your will is not self-proving, then your loved ones will need to prove the will to the court. In these instances, one of the witnesses to the signing of the will needs to give a statement to the court affirming that the will was signed by the deceased individual. While this does not sound like a problem, issues often arise if the will was created many years ago. Witnesses can often be difficult to track down or even deceased. If a witness can not be found then the will may need to go through the full probate process. Luckily, this issue can be easily solved by making your will self-proving. See our previous blog post on self-proving wills to learn how you can ensure your will is self-proving.