If someone dies and has a will, the distribution of the decedent’s assets occurs through probate. However, if someone dies without a will, known as intestate, there may be more questions as to how distribution occurs.
Florida has a specific succession of heirs that determines the distribution of assets. In the event there are no surviving heirs, the state takes over the assets and distributes them in a particular way.
Rightful heirs according to intestate succession
According to the Florida Bar Association, the surviving spouse is the recipient of the entire decedent’s estate whether there are living joint descendants or not. However, if there is a descendent of the decedent but not the surviving spouse, the spouse receives half of the estate and the descendent receives the other half.
If there is no spouse, but there are descendants, they receive the entire estate. If there is no spouse or descendants, living parents of the decedent are next in line. If they are not living, the siblings of the decedent are next. The Florida legislature outlines additional heir lineage in the event there are no close familial heirs.
Probate is the process in which the distribution of the assets to the heirs occurs. A personal representative is in charge of managing the estate before distribution, which includes paying the estate’s debts and filing tax returns for the estate.
What happens if there are no heirs
If there are no heirs to any, or part, of the estate, it goes to the state. The Chief Financial Officer of the State deposits the proceeds from sold assets into the State School Fund. Within 10 years of this deposit, anyone can file a claim to the asset proceeds. When this occurs, there is a reopening of the administration to determine the validity of this claim.