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What Is Florida’s Intestate Law?


When someone passes away without a Will or any other estate planning documents like a Trust, their estate would be handled under Florida’s intestate law. This is essentially a default tool for distributing property when the decedent didn’t leave any instructions behind. There are specific rules that designate who is entitled to any proceeds from the estate.

When someone dies without a Will, it can also cause a lot of fighting between family members. One or more people may allege there was a Will or make claims of entitlement. Disputes that arise during probate, whether the deceased left a will or not, can be costly. These arguments cause rifts between family members and drain the estate. If you have a dispute involving a Florida probate, you need an experienced Pompano Beach estate and probate litigation attorney who can help.

Whole Vs. Partial Intestacy

First, intestate can either be partial or whole. If someone died without any estate plan in place and no named beneficiaries, that is whole. In some cases, a person may have left a Will, but it turns out to be invalid, and there were no other estate planning documents in place. Partial intestacy refers to a person who left a Will, but it only disposes of a portion of their assets. That can also happen if the Will was deemed partially invalid.

Florida’s Intestate Rules

There is a statutory hierarchy that dictates the distribution of an estate, when the Decedent dies without a Will, which is known as dying intestate. The order is:

  • The entire estate goes to the Decedent’s surviving spouse if there are no surviving lineal descendants like children, grandchildren, etc.
  • The surviving spouse can also inherit everything if the Decedent and surviving spouse both had descendants together, and neither of them had any other children with someone else.
  • If the Decedent had a surviving spouse and lineal descendants who are not a descendant of the spouse, then the spouse would receive one-half of the estate while the descendants would split the balance under the “per stirpes” theory.
  • If the Decedent had no surviving spouse but did have lineal descendants, then they would share the estate.

There are four main ones, but there are also rules in place if the Decedent had no surviving spouse or lineal descendants. The property might pass to lineal ascendants, like parents or grandparents, or collateral relatives like siblings, or an aunt or uncle, etc.

What Does Per Stirpes Mean?

The per stirpes method looks at how to split assets to multiple lineal descendants. Depending on the situation, this can be complex. For example, the decedent leaves behind one surviving child and two surviving grandchildren from another child who previously died. The per stirpes method discusses how to divide assets between the child and grandchildren of the decedent.


If the surviving spouse were found guilty for murdering the Decedent, they would automatically be disqualified from receiving any proceeds of the state. Be advised, though, the probate court can consider evidence of an unlawful killing even if there is no criminal conviction. If they believe there was an unlawful killing, the alleged killer could still be disqualified.

If the Decedent were divorced, the ex would receive nothing. However, if the divorce was still pending or they were only separated, the surviving spouse would still inherit under Florida’s intestate law.

Contact a Florida Estate Litigation Attorney

If you need assistance with a probate or trust dispute, let us help you work through the issues. Contact Pompano Beach estate and probate litigation attorney Mark R. Manceri, P.A. today to schedule a consultation. We can help resolve any outstanding concerns before there’s irreparable harm to your family’s relationships, or the estate is drained due to legal fees while the issues go unresolved. 


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