Learn About the Laws of Intestacy Succession in Florida

Dying Without a Will in Florida

Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
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NOTE: State laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When a Florida resident dies without having made a Last Will and Testament, the intestacy succession laws found in the Florida Probate Code will dictate who inherits the deceased person's probate estate.

Below is a summary of the Florida intestacy succession laws in various situations.

Deceased Person is Survived by a Spouse and/or Descendants

Here is what will happen if the deceased person is survived by a spouse and/or descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.):

  • Survived by a spouse and descendants, all of whom are descendants of the spouse, and the surviving spouse has no other descendants - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit 100% of the deceased person's probate estate.​
  • Survived by a spouse and descendants, some of whom are not the descendants of the surviving spouse - In this case since some of the deceased person's descendants are not descendants of the surviving spouse (in other words, the deceased person had children from a prior marriage or relationship), the surviving spouse will inherit one-half (1/2) of the probate estate and the descendants will inherit the remaining one-half (1/2), per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and descendants all of whom are descendants of the surviving spouse, but the surviving spouse has descendants who are not descendants of the deceased person - In this case since the surviving spouse has descendants who are not the descendants of the deceased spouse (in other words, the surviving spouse has children from a prior marriage or relationship), the surviving spouse will inherit one-half (1/2) of the probate estate and the deceased person's descendants will inherit the remaining one-half (1/2), per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and no descendants - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit 100% of the probate estate.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse - In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit 100% of the probate estate, per stirpes.

Deceased Person is Not Survived by a Spouse or Descendants

Here is what will happen if the deceased person is not survived by a spouse or any descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.):

  • Survived by one or both parents - In this case, the parents will inherit equal shares of the deceased person's probate estate if both are living, or the surviving parent will inherit 100%.
  • Survived by siblings or descendants of siblings and no parents - In this case, the deceased person's siblings and the descendants of deceased siblings (nieces and nephews) will inherit 100% of the probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Not survived by parents, siblings or descendants of siblings - In this case, the probate estate will be divided so that one-half (1/2) will go to the deceased person's paternal family and the other half will go to the deceased person's maternal family as follows:
(a) To the grandfather and grandmother equally, or to the survivor of them.
(b) If there is no grandfather or grandmother, to uncles and/or aunts and descendants of deceased uncles and/or aunts (cousins), per stirpes.
(c) If there are no survivors on the paternal side of the family or no survivors on the maternal side of the family as described above, then the entire probate estate will go to the other side of the family in the order stated above.
(d) If there is no surviving family on either side as described above, then the entire probate estate will go to the family of the deceased person's last deceased spouse as if the deceased spouse had survived the decedent and then died intestate and entitled to the estate.
  • Not survived by any family members as described above - If the deceased person is not survived by any family members as described above, then the entire probate estate will escheat to the State of Florida. Property that escheats must be sold and the sale proceeds will be paid to the Chief Financial Officer of the state and deposited in the State School Fund.

    Prior Florida Intestacy Laws

    On October 1, 2011, Florida's intestacy laws were significantly changed with regard to the share of a surviving spouse. Thus, if the deceased person was married and died before this date, then the prior intestacy laws would need to be examined in order to calculate the intestate shares of the heirs. 

    What Will You Inherit From a Florida Intestate Estate?

    So what will you inherit if your relative dies without leaving a Last Will and Testament and the relative was a resident of Florida or owned real estate located in Florida? Even if you determine based on the information presented above that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you may very well not inherit anything. Why? Because your relative may have left all non-probate property or the debts your relative owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate which will make the estate insolvent.

    If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in Florida, then consult with a Florida probate attorney to be sure.