This week's column will focus once again on probate in Florida. This time, the subject that will be addressed is the rights of the decedent's family members during probate litigation. For one reason or another, surviving family members may not be left anything in an estate plan, but this does not mean that they are not entitled to try to collect assets.
Probate assets are generally divvied out per what is written in an estate plan -- after all taxes, fees and debts are handled. Some surviving family members may come to find that they were not left anything, whether by mistake or choice. Fortunately, Florida law does protect certain surviving family members from complete disinheritance.
Surviving children, for example, may attempt to claim property to which they believe they are entitled -- such property may include real estate and monetary assets. They may also file to receive a family allowance which, if awarded, would grant them funds before the estate is distributed. A surviving spouse may do this also, as well as claim what is known as an elective share. This would be a claim to collect at least 30 percent of the decedent's assets.
Those who believe that they are entitled to a portion of their loved ones' estates do, by law, have the right to seek to collect. Thankfully, probate litigation in Florida is designed to protect surviving family members. While filing claims to collect on an estate where one is not listed can take time, there certainly are valid reasons for an individual to take this step, which can be done with the assistance of legal counsel.
Source: floridabar.org, "Probate In Florida: 15. What are the rights of the decedent's surviving family?", Accessed on Feb. 23, 2016