Florida Statutes §744.102 (14) define that the next of kin “means those persons who would be heirs at law of the ward or alleged incapacitated person if the person were deceased and includes the lineal descendants of the ward or alleged incapacitated person.”
When determining the next of kin, the court will start at the top of the list and work down the options until finding someone that survived the decedent who is qualified to execute the estate or serve as a guardian.
Who is Next of Kin in Florida? – Appointment of Personal Representative in Intestacy Cases
If the decedent died intestate (without a last will), the court will appoint the personal representative based on the statutory order of preference for intestate estates.
In this regard, Florida Statutes §733.301 (1)(b) set out the next of kin as the decedent’s surviving spouse. If the decedent had no spouse, the next of kin is the person selected by a majority in the interest of the heirs.
However, if the heirs cannot choose properly, the next of kin will be the heir nearest in degree (of kinship). If more than one of the heirs apply for the role, the court will select the one best qualified.
Who is Next of Kin in Florida? – Intestate Succession
When it comes to distributing the assets held in an intestate estate, the primary next of kin will always be the decedent’s surviving spouse. In this sense, Florida Statutes §732.102 details the specific spouse’s share of the intestate estate in different scenarios.
However, if the decedent died without a will and left no surviving spouse, Florida law provides a specific order outlining who should receive the decedent’s assets and the order of receipt.
The letter of law provides that “the part of the intestate estate not passing to the surviving spouse (…), or the entire intestate estate if there is no surviving spouse, descends as follows:
- To the descendants of the decedent
- If there is no descendant, to the decedent’s father and mother equally, or to the survivor of them
- If there is none of the foregoing, to the decedent’s brothers and sisters and the descendants of deceased brothers and sisters
Nonetheless, the same statute adds that “if there is none of the foregoing, the estate shall be divided, one-half of which shall go to the decedent’s paternal, and the other half to the decedent’s maternal, kindred in the following order:
- To the grandfather and grandmother equally, or to the survivor of them.
- If there is no grandfather or grandmother, to uncles and aunts and descendants of deceased uncles and aunts of the decedent.
- If there is either no paternal kindred or no maternal kindred, the estate shall go to the other kindred who survive, in the order stated above.
- If there is no kindred of either part, the whole of the property shall go to the kindred of the last deceased spouse of the decedent as if the deceased spouse had survived the decedent and then died intestate entitled to the estate.
Lastly, if there is none of the foregoing, and if any of the descendants of the decedent’s great-grandparents were Holocaust victims as defined by Florida Statutes §626.9543(3)(a), then to the descendants of the great-grandparents.