The legal word is “intestate”–which means a person has passed away without leaving a valid will. Florida probate law is very specific about how property and money are passed to living heirs when there is no will. (And it doesn’t always correspond with what you know your parent would want, which is why I encourage everyone to have a will that is properly drafted.)
The Florida Probate Code determines who inherits your parent’s probatable estate (homestead property–the person’s primary residence, is treated separately under the law). It’s kind of complex, depending on the makeup of the remaining family:
- Your living parent inherits everything if he/she is the legal spouse and has no other children who are not the children of the deceased parent (say, from a prior marriage).
- You and your biological siblings inherit everything equally if your deceased parent doesn’t have a living spouse.
- You and your siblings inherit half and the living spouse inherits the other half if the living spouse is not your (and your siblings’) biological parent.
- Similarly, you and your siblings inherit half and the living spouse inherits the other half if that surviving spouse has other children who are not the children of your deceased parent.
- If one or more of your siblings who is the legal child of the deceased parent died before the parent, but has living children (i.e., your parent’s grandchildren), those kids inherit their parent’s share.
For children to inherit under the laws of intestacy in Florida, they must be legal children. This includes biological children, even if they were not raised by the deceased parent; legally adopted kids; children conceived by your deceased parent even if they were not born until after their death; and kids born outside of marriage, assuming they have proven paternity or the deceased parent acknowledged paternity during their lifetime. Children who are not American citizens or don’t live in this country are still entitled to their share. However, foster children, stepchildren, and biological children legally adopted by another person are not.
To help you understand your legal rights if a relative passes away in the state of Florida, or to draft or update your own will, contact the Law Office of Gary Landau for a FREE legal consultation at 954-979-6566 or by email. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.