If a person in Florida dies without an estate plan, that person's assets are distributed to family members based on state law. This is known as dying intestate. When a person dies intestate, the distribution of assets is usually made based on which surviving relatives are the closest next of kin.
It is generally beneficial for a person to create a will to ensure that assets are distributed based on the person's wishes. The assets do not have to go to family members; they can go to anyone the person wishes to leave them to, including charitable organizations.
A will can have other functions as well. One of the most important is for parents of minor children, who can name a guardian for their children in the will. This can also be done for an adult relative who does not have the capacity to care for themselves. If no guardian is named, family members can go to court to have themselves appointed as guardian, but there is no guarantee that the one who is successful will be the one the deceased person would have preferred.
Some people do not use a will to pass assets to loved ones. Certain assets, such as some retirement plans, are passed using documents called beneficiary designations. Others may be titled in such a way to pass to a spouse or other relative on the death of the owner. Some people prefer to use a trust instead of a will. A trust may allow assets to pass to loved ones more quickly than a will since they do not have to go through probate. While trusts are managed by trustees, wills name an executor who is responsible for the process of locating assets, paying off debts to creditors, filing taxes and ensuring that assets are distributed to beneficiaries.