An Important Change to Florida Law

Who inherits, and how much, when there is no Last Will?

Starting October 1, 2011, step-parents in Florida have even more incentive to have a Last Will. Without a will, the surviving spouse inherits much less of the estate if either of the parents has children by any other relationship. Thankfully, the results below can be avoided by spending a few hundred dollars on a Will now.

For reasons as clear as mud, the Florida Legislature amended the law to take away half of the wife’s inheritance if the wife has children by any man other than the husband who just died. So if a divorced woman with a small child marries and has a child by that second husband, here’s what happens if the second husband dies while his child (their child) is still a minor:

(a) if the homestead was just in the father’s name, it was a mess under the old law and still a mess today; the wife only gets part of the title, either a life estate or 50% of the title, at her timely election;

(b) for all other assets, the wife gets half and the father’s child gets half (and Mom’s child gets nothing if he or she was not adopted by step-dad), and

(c) if their child receives more than $15,000, then even though the child still has his mother (his “natural guardian”), the mother or someone else has to be appointed legal “guardian of the property” of the child until he reaches age 18.

The process of setting up the guardianship will likely cost upwards of $3,000. The child receives the money left when they turn 18, whether they are responsible enough to manage the money or not.
Note that the mom’s child, the older half-brother or half-sister of the inheriting child, got nothing, but their very existence stopped the Mom from getting half of what Dad owned and greatly benefited the half-sibling (as well as benefitting, in many cases, a guardianship attorney who will earn some fees).

Like we said, now you have even more incentive to get that Will signed.