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My Loved One Never Made A Will….Now What?


No one relishes the thought of life coming to an end. Particularly when we are younger, or perhaps just starting a family of our own. People tend to set their minds to the building of things – not on the eventuality of putting things away. However, at some point everyone must pass on, and our closest friends and loved ones have the task of handling what is left behind. One of the most responsible, and even kind, things we can do is to set up an estate plan before we pass away. We never know when the unexpected may happen, and if you pass without a will then the state of Florida will have a very large say in how your estate is distributed. This process is lengthy, complicated, and largely preventable.

Intestate Succession and the Executor

One of the key pieces in the wills and estates realm is the role of an estate’s executor.  The “executor” is the person making many of the decisions about the estate and handling its administration. The executor’s identity will normally be indicated in the last will and testament.

But what if a person passed away without a will/other estate plan?

In Florida, if a person dies without having created a last will and testament or other estate plan, the estate will pass through a process called “intestate succession.” Intestate succession essentially means that the state of Florida takes the reins in determining the distribution of the estate. Typically, the deceased’s spouse will be appointed by the court as the personal representative of the estate. If the deceased was unmarried at their time of death the court will likely appoint any children of the deceased to the role, and so on and so forth, seeking out the closest next of kin the court can identify until the appropriate person is identified. In some circumstances a professional executor may also be assigned, such as an Attorney.

Executor Responsibilities

An Executor’s duties and responsibilities will vary, largely dependent upon what is necessary in the handling of the estate. However, an Executor can expect that they will need to:

  • Notify creditors that the deceased has passed away and pay any necessary debts
  • File necessary taxes
  • Perform an inventory of assets and liabilities
  • Identify and distribute remaining assets to appropriate beneficiaries.

Can Anyone Become an Executor?

No. Florida has placed some restrictions on who may act as an executor, personal representative, or administrator of an estate. These restrictions include barring anyone under the age of 18, certain persons convicted of serious crimes, and people who live outside of Florida, unless they are related to the deceased.

Can I Request to Be Appointed as the Executor of an Intestate Estate?

Yes. The court allows for a person to request that they be appointed to be the administrator of an intestate estate. This is accomplished via a petition filed with the court in the county the deceased lived in. It should be noted that a request to be designated as the estate administrator does not necessarily mean that you will be appointed as such. It is a request that the court will consider, but the court is not required to approve the request.

Contact Suncoast Civil Law

We at Suncoast Civil Law understand the complexities inherent in the Florida probate process. Our Sarasota wills & probate lawyers are equipped to handle any complication or challenge that may arise in the course of administering an estate. Contact our office today for a free consultation about your estate plan or probate matter.