Florida probateWhat happens to my money after I die?

After someone passes away, their money and property is distributed according to whether or not they had a Will.  If they had a Will, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries indicated in the Will. However, if someone passes away without a Will, their property is distributed through intestate succession.  This means that the property passes to the decedent’s heirs according to the laws of the state in which the property was held or where the individual passed away.  

The intestate succession laws in Florida provide the order in which property is passed to surviving relatives.  The property that is administered by this order of succession includes property such as homes and land, but also bank accounts or corporations owned by the decedent. 

What happens if someone dies but they have no heirs?

According to Florida Statutes §732.107, “When a person dies leaving an estate without being survived by any person entitled to a part of it, that part shall escheat to the state.” 
Escheat means that the property will revert back to the state.  The foundation of this modern law is feudal law where the property granted to an individual would revert back to the feudal lord upon the death of the individual.  Today this means that property, such as a bank account, held by an individual who passes away without a will and no heirs will be given to the state after the death of the individual. 

What does the state do with the money or property that it acquires by escheatment?  

Property that escheats in Florida is sold according to the Florida probate rules and the proceeds from that sale are deposited by the Chief Financial Officer of Florida to the State School Fund.  If there is someone who is not located or known of at the time of escheatment, Florida law provides ten years for those individuals to make a claim of entitlement to the proceeds. This claim can only be made by someone who is legally entitled to the property. 

Can I avoid escheatment? 

Yes, by planning ahead and thinking about how you want your property to be handled when you pass.  Remember, the property will only escheat to the state if there is no one entitled to it. The ways that someone is entitled to property are if they are designated as a beneficiary in a Will or if they are a legal heir of the decedent.  Your property would only escheat if you had no one that your property could pass to through these methods. 

If you know that you will not have any heirs survive you, you can avoid the escheatment of the property by providing for it in your Will.  For example, you can choose to devise the property to a close friend or an organization that is important to you.  

How to Pronounce “Escheat” 

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, the proper pronunciation is: es·​cheat | \ is-ˈchēt  , ish-ˈchēt\ |.  

If you are curious about whether your property will escheat or you want to plan accordingly so that your assets do not escheat, contact The Probate Firm to schedule a consultation. We are always happy to help you figure out what the best options are for you.