The time following a loved one’s passing is already stressful, and when combined with uncertainties and disagreements surrounding inheritance, navigating the probate process can be extremely difficult. To offer those in this position some comfort, our probate attorneys in Miami are shedding some light on this area of law.
Inheritance Laws in Florida
When it comes to Florida inheritance law, one of the most important considerations is whether the deceased had a valid will in place at the time of death, or he or she died intestate, meaning no legally-binding will be established. In the case of the former, the individuals property would be distributed to the named beneficiaries, provided a dispute to the will is not raised. Meanwhile, if the latter is the case, the individual’s estate would be distributed in accordance with Florida’s intestacy statutes, which are as follows:
- The surviving spouse receives the entire estate if the deceased had no other lineal descendants, such as children or grandchildren, or if the spouse and the deceased shared those lineal descendants.
- If the deceased is survived by both a spouse and lineal descendants who bare no relation to the spouse, the estate would distribute equally. Similarly, if there are multiple descendants and no spouse, the estate is shared between them.
- If no surviving spouse or lineal descendants exist, the estate would be distributed to lineal ascendants (parents, grandparents, etc.) or other relatives (siblings, aunts/uncles, etc.).
When Disputes Can be Raised
Whether there is a will or not, one has the power to dispute an inheritance distribution, but there is no guarantee these efforts will be successful. If there is a will in place but one or more of the heirs believe it to be invalid, the individual(s) can dispute to the will with the probate court. However, they must have documented reason to do so. For instance, if the individual who signed the will was incompetent or under duress at the time which the will was signed, the heir(s) could raise a dispute citing undue influence.
On the other hand, if the will is valid and the surviving spouse or descendants have an issue with the way the estate was designated to be distributed, there is usually little that can be done. Florida does have generous probate laws a far as surviving spouses are concerned, so such individual may be successful in disputing a will that disinherits them, provided misconduct that warranted such a decision cannot be proven. Additionally, if the spouse (or minor children who are descendants) occupies the deceased’s home, and that home is to be transferred to another individual in accordance with the will, he or she has the right to block the action under Florida inheritance law. The court in this instance might file a Petition to Determine Homestead, which would require any heirs to identify themselves as occupants of the home. If the court is satisfied with the identification, protection from removal from the home would be awarded.
As for children, parents and other potential beneficiaries, the confines of the will are most often binding, with the exception of the distribution of a homestead they currently occupy. This is true even if a verbal agreement is made before the individual’s passing. Therefore, any agreements such as these are advised to be made in writing. Where intestate proceedings are concerned, a dispute is even harder to pursue successfully. For this reason, it is always advisable to consult an attorney with experience in probate cases if one believes an inheritance issue exists.
If you have a case for our probate attorneys in Miami, contact our office today for a free consultation. Our team can guide you through the process step by step with diligence and empathy, ensuring any disputes are resolved with an optimal outcome.