Meeting with couple for a will

What Happens If You Die Without A Will?

A Last Will and Testament allows an individual to dictate what happens to their property and ensure their debts will be discharged after they pass. This document can be extremely specific, setting out who should receive individual assets. Alternatively, it can be broader, granting categories of assets to certain people or entities. If you die without a will, you cannot provide this direction for your loved ones to use in probating your estate. Instead, the intestacy laws of your state of residence will dictate how a representative appointed by the probate court handles assets and liabilities. Roulet Law Firm, P.A. assists individuals in developing wills and other estate planning documents that address their specific needs. Call our Florida office at (941) 909-4644 or our Minnesota office at (763) 420-5087 to learn more and schedule your individual consultation.

What Happens if a Person Who Dies Did Not Have a Valid Will?

Someone who passes away without a will is often referred to as passing “intestate.” This person’s personal representative, appointed by the court, must pay liabilities and distribute assets according to state laws. In general, state laws require that assets pass in a specific order to various family members.

Minnesota Intestacy Laws

According to the Office of the Revisor of Statutes, Minnesota law establishes that the decedent’s spouse will receive the entire estate unless the decedent is survived by children who are not also the surviving spouse’s children. If, in addition to a surviving spouse, the deceased individual is survived by children who are not also the surviving spouse’s children, then the spouse receives the first $225,000 plus 50% of the balance of the estate.

If there is no surviving spouse, then state laws published by the Office of the Revisor of Statutes specify that the estate’s assets will be distributed:

  • To the decedent’s children in equal shares, with the share of any child who has preceded the decedent in death being shared equally among their own children (the decedent’s grandchildren)
  • To the decedent’s parents, if the decedent has died without issue; both parents shall inherit equally if both are living; if only one parent is living, that parent shall inherit the entire estate
  • To the decedent’s siblings in equal shares, if there are no surviving parents or children; then to their children (the decedent’s niblings) if no siblings are surviving
  • To a grandparent if they are still living and there are no children, parents, or siblings

If none of the above individuals are living, then the full value of the estate will go to the decedent’s “next of kin,” which is essentially any other family member. The portion that they will take depends on the degree of family members and how many next of kin are still living.

Florida Intestate Laws

In a manner similar to Minnesotan arrangements, the 2022 Florida Statutes first give the entire estate to the spouse if there is a surviving spouse, and then to all of the decedent’s children are also the surviving spouse’s children. If there are children who are not also the surviving spouse’s children, then the spouse takes one-half of the estate.

If there is no surviving spouse, then the Florida probate court will distribute assets to:

  • The decedent’s children
  • If there are no children, then to the decedent’s parents, equally if they are both alive, or to the sole surviving parent if only one is living
  • If there are no children and no parents, then to the decedent’s siblings and any heirs to those siblings if the sibling is no longer living
  • If there are no children, parents, or siblings, then the value will go to the grandparents equally on each side

Florida law then provides that the estate should go to great-uncles and great-aunts. If none of those people are still living, then the remainder goes to the next of kin of the last surviving spouse.

Where Does the Money Go If You Die and Have No Family?

Even for people who are not on terms of close correspondence with their genetic relatives, most people do have some surviving family. However, lawmakers generally aim to draft their legislation so as to provide even for rare and exceptional circumstances.

Intestate With No Next of Kin in Minnesota

If you die without a will in Minnesota and have no known relatives, then the statutory provisions publicized by the Office of the Revisor of Statutes require that the estate assets pass to the state. Essentially, the State of Minnesota is a taker of last resort if there are no other options to disburse the funds.

Intestate With No Next of Kin in Florida

In Florida, if someone dies intestate and has no family at all, the estate assets will be transferred to the State of Florida through a process known as “escheat.” The property will be sold and then deposited into the State School Fund. Anyone can challenge the escheat if they bring such a challenge within ten years after the date of the fund transfer. If they do not make a challenge within that period, then they lose the right to challenge the escheat.

Preparing for the Unexpected

Because most people do have at least a few surviving relatives, a case of intestate succession with no heirs would be relatively unusual in either Florida or Minnesota. Both state’s laws require that an individual have no family whatsoever before the assets would revert to the state. Nonetheless, having a valid will can often avoid this type of situation. Roulet Law Firm, P.A. may be able to help individuals in Florida and Minnesota create a will to avoid escheat.

What Are the Disadvantages of Dying Without a Will?

A will allows someone to dictate who should receive each of the assets in their possession after they pass. If someone dies without a will or some other estate planning tool to address transferring assets, they lose that ability. State laws will be in effect to transfer assets in a way that the decedent may not have liked or wanted. Instead, a will can be used to:

  • Provide for the distribution of assets
  • Leave specific instructions to address liabilities
  • Name a guardian for minor children
  • Create a testamentary trust

Creating a will as part of a comprehensive estate plan can also sometimes help individuals and families avoid negative tax implications as well. For someone who does not want to leave their estate to their family, a will can specifically set out what should happen to their assets—from dividing their possessions among friends to donating an estate to charity. A will allows the decedent to specifically exclude people from receiving anything from their estate as well. While there is some cost to creating a will, the cost is often well worth it to accomplish an individual’s estate planning goals.

Get Help Creating Your Minnesota or Florida Will

Do not die without a will. Thinking about one’s own passing can be uncomfortable, but the truth is that death is a reality everyone must eventually confront. While most individuals cannot know the timing or circumstances of their own deaths, they can acknowledge the eventuality and prepare their worldly assets for distribution in accordance with their own wishes, rather than relying on their state’s intestacy laws. If you are a resident of Florida or Minnesota and you do not have a valid, up-to-date will, contact our team to schedule an appointment and review your needs. To learn more about our services, call our Minnesota office at (763) 420-5087 or our Florida office at (941) 909-4644 today.

And, if you would like to learn how to make it as easy and inexpensive as possible for your family to manage your affairs during incapacity and after passing, while ensuring your assets only go to whom you want and how you want, click here to register for our FREE online masterclass.

Chuck Roulet
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Nationally Recognized Estate Planning Attorney, Author, and Speaker
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