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The loss of a spouse is a profoundly challenging experience on many levels; navigating the legal landscape of inheritance and estate matters can add an additional layer of complexity during an emotionally trying time. Even so, the probate process is critical for spouses who have lost their partners. In Florida, surviving spouses are granted important rights and protections under the law to ensure their financial security and well-being. See below to explore the key aspects of surviving spouse rights in Florida, including homestead rights, elective share, intestate share, and other entitlements. If you have any questions or need assistance moving through the Florida probate process as a surviving spouse or personal representative of the estate, contact Messina Law Group for help from our compassionate and dedicated Dunedin probate lawyer.

Homestead Rights

In Florida, the surviving spouse has significant rights regarding the homestead property, which is the primary residence of the deceased. These rights are designed to provide the surviving spouse with a secure place to live. Homestead rights guaranteed to the surviving spouse include:

  • Protection from Forced Sale: The homestead property is protected from forced sale by creditors, ensuring the surviving spouse has a place to live.
  • Life Estate or Half Ownership: If the deceased spouse owned the homestead property in their name alone, the surviving spouse is entitled to either a life estate in the property (the right to live in the home for the rest of their life) or a half ownership interest in the property, with the other half passing to the deceased spouse’s descendants.

Elective Share

The elective share is a legal provision that allows a surviving spouse to claim a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate, regardless of what is stated in the will. In Florida, the elective share is 30% of the elective estate, which includes not only probate assets but also certain non-probate assets as well. The purpose of the elective share is to prevent a spouse from being disinherited and ensure they receive a fair portion of the estate. The surviving spouse must file for the elective share within a specified time frame, generally within six months of receiving notice of the administration of the estate or two years after the death of the deceased spouse.

Intestate Share

If the deceased spouse dies without a will (intestate), Florida law determines how the estate is distributed. The surviving spouse’s share depends on whether there are surviving descendants and their relation to the deceased and surviving spouse. If there are no surviving descendants or if all descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate. If there are surviving descendants who are not also descendants of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse is entitled to half of the estate, with the other half going to the descendants.

Family Allowance

In addition to the rights mentioned above, a surviving spouse is entitled to a family allowance of up to $18,000 to help support them during the estate administration process. This allowance is given priority over most other claims against the estate.

Other Benefits

  • Exempt Personal Property: The surviving spouse is entitled to certain personal property of the deceased spouse, up to a value of $20,000, exempt from creditor claims.
  • Preference in Appointment as Personal Representative: The surviving spouse has priority in being appointed as the personal representative (executor) of the estate.

Contact Messina Law Group in Dunedin to Protect Spousal Rights in Florida Probate Proceedings

The rights of a surviving spouse in Florida are designed to provide financial security and protection during a difficult time. These rights are complex and subject to specific legal requirements and deadlines. It is advisable for surviving spouses to consult with a knowledgeable probate attorney to ensure their rights are fully protected and to successfully navigate the intricacies of Florida’s probate and estate laws.

For more information and assistance, contact our Dunedin probate lawyer at Messina Law Group, where we are dedicated to helping clients navigate the complexities of estate and probate matters in Florida.

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