Florida Probate Law: Distributions To Other Family Members
When someone dies with property to distribute, Florida estate law grants certain property rights to the surviving spouse of the deceased, either with or without a valid last will and testament. But what if you are a surviving relative other than a spouse? In that case, what you are entitled to depends on your relationship to the deceased, your age ,and whether the deceased left a valid will.
Disinheriting Your Offspring
The general principle is that absent special circumstances, you can feel free to disinherit your adult children — there is no law prohibiting that. When it comes to minor children, however, it’s a different story. Under Florida law, your primary residence is considered your “homestead” if you own it. If you die leaving a minor child, you cannot deprive your child of the right to live in the homestead — you must leave your homestead to either your child or your surviving spouse.
Now let’s suppose you make a common error — you get married, have a child and write a will. Then you have another child but forget to update your will to include the other child, and you die before rectifying the error. In this case the probate court will grant thea later-born child an equal share of your estate with the firstborn child — in other words, the children will share their portion 50/50 on the assumption that your failure to include both children was an oversight.
Disinheriting Your Other Relatives
Absent special circumstances, it is OK for you to disinherit relatives other than your spouse and minor children. It won’t work, however, if you die without a will, or if your will is declared invalid by a probate court. Unfortunately, a will can be invalidated for all sorts of reasons, including a purely formal defect.
If You Die Without a Valid Will
If you die without a valid will,. Florida’s intestate succession law kicks in and your probate estate will be distributed in accordance with the distribution priorities established by that law. Your spouse and children will be first in line to inherit your estate. Although the rules are complex, if you leave behind a spouse along with children who are also your spouse’s children, your spouse will receive everything.
Other relatives can inherit under certain circumstances. If you leave behind children who are not your spouse’s children, for example they will receive 50 percent of your estate. Your other relatives will get a share only if you leave behind no spouse or children. Keep in mind, however, that intestate succession law can get deceptively complex under certain circumstances, making it difficult to state generalizations that are valid in all cases. Speak with an attorney.
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