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Florida Inheritance Laws: Your Guide

May 19, 2022 | Estate Planning Legal Blogs | Elder Law P.A

Florida inheritance laws strive to preserve the rights of its citizens to receive property and money after the death of their loved ones. In addition, under the Florida probate law, several property rights have been created for the heirs, widows, and beneficiaries.

When a family member dies, the survivors not only have to handle the grief but have to start the process of handling all the legal and financial affairs. The key priority is to handle the decedent’s estate because this will ensure that the intended beneficiaries receive their share of the assets and that all taxes are paid.

INHERITANCE LAWS IN FLORIDA

Presence of a Will

Inheritance laws in Florida, like many other states, provide several ways in which one may acquire an inheritance after the death of a loved one. If there is a will left by the decedent that outlines which assets will go to which beneficiary, then the court will first determine the validity of the will and then permit distribution of the assets after probate is complete. The actual distribution of the assets is done by the executor (the personal representative named in the will). However, before the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries, all taxes have to be paid, and all creditors and lien holders have to be reimbursed. Only then is the estate distributed to the beneficiaries.

Absence of a Will

What are the Florida inheritance laws when there is no will? When a person dies without a will, then his or her assets are distributed to the beneficiaries according to the laws of intestate succession as follows:

  • If the decedent had a spouse but no children, the spouse will inherit 100% of the estate.
  • If the decedent had a spouse and has biological children related to the spouse, the spouse will inherit 100% of the estate.
  • If the decedent had a spouse and children from another marriage, the spouse will inherit 50% of the estate and the children will get the other 50%.
  • If the decedent had no spouse or children but has living parents, the latter will inherit 100% of the estate.
  • If the decedent had no spouse, children, or living parents, but has siblings, the latter will inherit 100% of the estate.
  • If there are no family members or distant relatives, then the court will do an exhaustive search of the family tree; if no one is found, the estate belongs to the government.

Assets and Intestate Succession

Only those assets listed in the will are affected by intestate succession laws. Assets that are not passed include the following:

  • All real estate property that has been transferred to a living trust
  • Funds in a 401(K), IRA, or other similar retirement accounts
  • Proceeds of a life insurance policy
  • All payable on death bank accounts
  • Property that you own with someone else or joint tenancy

Inheritance Tax in Florida

The good news is that Florida inheritance laws do not include the collection of an inheritance tax. This means that whatever assets you get, you do not have to pay taxes on. Inheritance laws in Florida do not consider inheritance as income.

Florida Inheritance Law and Spouses

The strongest rights to the intestate estate in Florida belong to the surviving spouse. According to Florida inheritance laws, the surviving spouse will receive 100% of the estate if there are no surviving children or if the only surviving children belong to the surviving spouse and the deceased. But if the surviving children were from a previous spouse, then the surviving spouse will receive 50% of the estate and the other children will receive the other 50% of the estate.

Florida law also affords financial assistance to the surviving spouse that is going through probate. Because probate is a long-drawn-out process, the surviving spouse can request the judge access to the deceased spouse’s vehicle and a family allowance of up to $18K. The final amount of financial assistance can only be agreed upon by the probate judge.

Divorce and Inheritance Law in Florida

Under Florida inheritance laws, the divorcing spouse will lose all the inheritance rights if he or she divorces the deceased. If, however, the decedent passed away during the divorce proceedings or the couple separated, the spouse will still retain his/her inheritance rights.

The Probate Process

In Florida, probate is undertaken when there is a will or living trust. Probate is not a short process and can easily take 6-9 months, even for the simplest cases. When a person dies and leaves a will, the will must first be registered with the court, and can then enter probate. The probate court will first ensure that the will is valid and appoint a personal representative or executor if no one was mentioned in the will as such. The role of the personal executor is to locate all the assets, identify the beneficiaries, and contact the creditors and lien holders. Once probate has concluded, the executor then distributes the assets to be beneficiaries but only after all the taxes, creditors, and lien holders are paid first. If there are disagreements about the status of the will and the beneficiaries don’t agree on the amount of estate they are receiving, probate can take several years.

Taxes Need to be Filed

Just because Florida does not have an inheritance tax does not mean you do not have to file taxes. There are several other tax filings that the survivor must complete, and they include the following:

  • The final individual state and federal income tax return must be filed by April 15 following the decedent’s death.
  • A federal estate tax return is usually due 9 months after the decedent’s death. This is only required if there was a taxable gift over $12.06 million.
  • Federal estate income tax must be filed before April 15 following the decedent’s death.

CONCLUSION

Inheritance laws in Florida have all sorts of nuances and it is important to contact an estate attorney if you are not sure of your legal rights. An experienced estate lawyer can guide you through the probate process and ensure that you get your fair share of inheritance without any issues. Finally, if there is no will, the estate lawyer can ensure that you receive the estate according to the laws of intestate succession. Elder Law, P.A. specializes in the matters of wills, trusts, estates, and Florida’s laws regarding probate. If you are in need of an experienced lawyer, contact them today at 1-561-933-5074. They will be happy to help and the initial consultation is free.

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