In Florida, when an individual dies without a will, the person is said to have died “intestate”. Under these circumstances, Florida’s intestacy laws govern who will inherit the deceased person’s property and other assets. Generally, under Florida’s intestacy laws, assets which are not distributed through a will are inherited to the decedent’s heirs. So how does the court determine the decedent’s heirs?
Most counties across Florida use a legal document referred to as an Affidavit of Heirs or Affidavit of Heirship to determine the decedent’s heirs.
The term heirship refers to a legal right to obtain property and other assets from a person who has died without a will to detail how that person wishes to distribute his or her assets. In these situations, Florida’s intestacy laws will govern who will be appointed Personal representative and be charged with administering the estate, and who is entitled to inherit from the estate assets. Heirs usually refer to children and other close or distant relatives of the decedent.
What is included in an Affidavit of Heirs—
Typically, when someone dies without a will and leaves behind property, an heir will need to open a case with the Probate court to distribute the property the decedent has left behind. An Affidavit of Heirship is a sworn statement, which lists all the decedent’s known family members at the time of the decedent’s death, and how they are related to the decedent. An Affidavit of Heirship must include the following information:
- The decedent’s name and last known address;
- the date and place of death;
- the decedent’s marital history;
- the decedent’s family members such as children, siblings, parents, aunts/uncles, and niece/ nephews.
This allows the court to establish the decedent’s heirs. It is important to note that just because someone is listed in an Affidavit of Heirs, it does not mean that he or she will receive any assets from the decedent’s estate. Florida’s intestacy laws determine what heirs are entitled to inherit from the decedent’s estate. The Affidavit of Heirs is a tool that gives the court the information in needs to apply the law and make sure that those heirs entitled to inherit from the decedent’s estate receive his or her share.
Most importantly, in the Probate courts of most Florida counties, an intestate estate cannot proceed until an Affidavit of Heirs has been completed and filed. This means that the court will not appoint a Personal Representative for an intestate estate until the person petitioning to be appointed personal representative has filed the Affidavit of Heirs with the court.
Speak with a Florida Estate Planning Attorney…
As attorneys who specialize in Florida Estate Planning and Probate, our team understands how overwhelming the probate process can be. Many counties in Florida require documents, such as an Affidavit of Heirs, to be filed before moving forward with the process. For this reason, we encourage you to contact our experienced Probate attorneys. Our team will make sure all documentation you may need is properly executed and timely filed to avoid any unnecessary delays in the Probate process. If you have any questions regarding how to begin the probate administration process, we invite you to contact The Florida Estate Planning Law Firm, by e-mail or by calling our office at 305-384-3386.