When administering an estate in Florida, an executor must determine who a decedent’s heirs are. They cannot settle the estate until all beneficiaries get what’s rightfully and legally theirs. In most cases, the decedent may spell out who these people are in their wills, but if they don’t, Florida’s intestacy laws may come into play.
An heir vs. a beneficiary
An heir is legally entitled to a decedent’s property when there’s no valid will. They include the surviving spouse, children, parents, aunts, and uncles. The term “beneficiary” normally applies to those whom the decedent named in their will or trust and can also apply to heirs if there was no will.
Typically, a beneficiary holds more rights than an heir. However, an heir, like a spouse, can challenge the will if the decedent didn’t provide for them in the will.
Determining heirs when there is no will
Estate administration strictly follows Florida’s intestacy laws if the decedent dies without leaving a valid will behind. Under these laws, surviving spouses get the first right of inheritance. If there is no spouse, then the children inherit everything.
If you have a spouse and children, and your spouse has no other decedents, they will get everything. However, if you and your spouse have children and your spouse also has children with someone else, then your spouse will get half of your estate, and your biological or legally adopted children will get the other half.
Your parents will receive your entire estate if you do not have a spouse or children. If you have no parents, children or spouse, your siblings will inherit what’s left of the estate. If you do not have siblings, your grandparents, aunts and uncles are the next in line to receive a portion of your estate.
Writing a valid will is one of the best things a person can do for their family and executors in Florida. Even though intestacy laws are in place, dying without a valid will makes the estate administration process much more complicated. Understanding the heir and beneficiary relationships is crucial for ensuring everyone gets what they’re legally entitled to.