According to several news outlets, iconic singer Aretha Franklin passed away from pancreatic cancer without a will in place. Estate planning professionals warn that dying intestate — the legal term for when someone passes away without a will — can create unnecessary stress for intended beneficiaries and usually financially costly. Ms. Franklin’s personal attorney has stated he was after the 76-year-old legendary singer for years, but she never got around to putting one together. Following her death, the musician’s four sons have filed documents with the court listing themselves as interested parties in her estate.
Why Estate Planning Matters
Below is some basic information about wills and trusts, collectively referred to as estate planning, and what happens when you pass away with nothing in place.
A will is a legal document that dictates how assets and money will be transferred to beneficiaries at the time of a person’s death. Probating the will typically takes place over a span of months and can take much longer depending upon the assets and personalities involved in the estate. The terms of a will become part of the public record because it must be submitted to the probate court. On the other hand, a trust can keep information about your estate completely private and can distribute your assets over time. Even when a trust is created, a will which specifies that all assets be transferred to the trust is also drafted to make sure none of your assets pass under the intestacy statutes. This helps keep as much of your financial life private as possible.
To consult with an experienced estate planning / probate lawyer today, call 855-780-9986
When There is No Plan
Ms. Franklin, like other famous and wealthy individuals, was private about her finances. Without a will or trust in place, however, her assets will be distributed in probate court. The process is referred to as “intestate succession”. Beyond the lack of privacy, the probate process can take years and a significant amount of money in order to sort out all of the details regarding Ms. Franklin’s assets. Almost all probate records, either for a testate estate or an intestate estate, become subject to public view.
The laws in every state differ regarding the division of assets for someone who passed away intestate. Generally, the state where the death occurred will have jurisdiction over who receives what asset. Because Ms. Franklin passed away in Michigan, her remaining assets will be divided equally among her children by an executor, the person who administers the process of transferring those assets and who will be appointed by the court.
Estate planning professionals warn that dying intestate — the legal term for when someone passes away without a will — can create unnecessary stress for intended beneficiaries and usually financially costly.
Florida’s Intestate Laws
When someone dies without a will in Florida, his or her property will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. Florida law first gives your property to your closest relatives, starting with your spouse and/or children. If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, Florida intestacy law then turns to grandchildren or parents. Then the list continues, in order, to siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and then the spouse’s relatives. Should the court exhaust the family line and find that the deceased has no surviving relatives by blood or marriage, the property goes to the state of Florida.
There are also taxes that are imposed by the government when someone passes away. This tax only applies to estates worth a certain amount, based on the entity that is levying the tax. This is commonly referred to as the “death tax.” This tax differs from the inheritance tax, which is imposed on assets as they are passed on to the deceased person’s heirs. Florida is one of 38 states that has no estate tax. That being said, federal estate tax may still apply, although the threshold at which federal estate tax becomes due is currently rather high at $11,200,000 per person.
Estate Planning Help
Do not leave what you have worked hard for your entire life to chance by not putting an estate plan together. Life is unpredictable. Contact the experienced wills, trust, and probate attorneys at Bogin, Munns & Munns, P.A. today to learn how to best protect yourself now and your family after you are gone.
NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. You should consult with a duly licensed attorney regarding your Florida legal matter, as every situation is unique. Please know that merely reading this article, subscribing to this blog, or otherwise contacting Bogin, Munns & Munns does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our firm. Should you seek legal representation from Bogin, Munns & Munns, any such representation must first be agreed to by the firm and confirmed in a written agreement.