What is an Affidavit of Heirship?
When someone dies intestate – without a will – and leaves behind property, a probate case will need to be opened to distribute that property to the decedent’s heirs. An Affidavit of Heirship is a sworn statement – a document which has to be signed by the proposed personal representative in the presence of a notary – that lists the decedent’s known family members at the time of the decedent’s death, and how they are related to the decedent.
The Affidavit of Heirship will include the decedent’s last known address, his or her date and place of death, his or her marital history, and will list the decedent’s family members, such as his or her children, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.
This information allows the probate court to establish the decedent’s heirs. It is not uncommon for an heir search to be conducted in order to ascertain some of this information, particularly in a family that does not have a close relationship. Moreover, one might also note that just because someone is listed in an Affidavit of Heirship, that does not automatically establish that he or she will receive any assets from the decedent’s estate. Rather, the Florida Probate Code, and particularly the applicable provisions of Florida’s intestacy statutes in Chapter 732 of the Florida Statutes, will determine who of the decedent’s heirs are entitled to inherit. The Affidavit of Heirship assists the probate court in applying these statutory provisions and confirming that those heirs entitled to inherit from the estate actually do receive their appropriate shares.
Furthermore, the Affidavit of Heirship must be completed and filed with the probate court, typically with the opening probate documents, or the probate court will not proceed with the appointment of a personal representative to run the estate.
Should you be an heir of a decedent who died intestate, it is important to consult with your trusted probate lawyer about the applicable intestacy statutes and about petitioning the probate court to seek appointment as the personal representative.