A common expectation for many people setting up their estate plan, or updating their existing plan, is that their spouse and children will continue to live in the family home if the testator dies first. Few would like the idea of creditors getting their hands on the house and selling it, leaving their family out on the street when they are gone.
To prevent this from happening during probate, Florida law protects the family home from the reach of creditors. A property designated a “homestead” cannot be sold against the owners’ wishes by court order. No matter how much debt the decedent left behind, the homestead is safe from a forced sale.
People who own and occupy a single piece of property will likely have an easy time showing that it is their homestead. But for other people, such as “snowbirds” who split their time between Florida and another state, figuring out which property is the homestead can be complicated. Either way, there is a legal process that the estate must go through to resolve the homestead question.
This is an example of the importance of having a probate attorney help you after a loved one passes away, especially if you are the personal representative for the estate. A lawyer can act as an adviser, make the personal representative’s duties and obligations clear, and represent the estate in court. If there are creditors or parties challenging the will, the attorney can help fend off invalid claims. This can make a difficult team easier.