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How does Florida's homestead law affect inheritance rights?

People in the United States have a long history and tradition of promoting home ownership. For many people, owning a home is a cornerstone of the American dream. Accordingly, Florida, and other states in the country, have laws to help protect people from losing their homes due to economic struggles.

Under Florida's homestead laws, homeowners can protect the entire value of their primary residences if they file for bankruptcy. This means that the owners can protect their homes from most creditors, and continue living in the homes, even if they have to file for bankruptcy. Although this is the very basic gist of the homestead laws, they also have many nuances that intersect with other areas of law. For example, how might the homestead laws affect inheritance rights?

Many people in the Lakeland and Winter Haven areas have accumulated assets, including their homes, that they wish to pass down to family members when they die. Florida's homestead laws can affect the distribution of the decedent's home under a narrow, but not so uncommon, set of circumstances.

If the decedent owned his or her home individually, but had a spouse that survived him or her, Florida law requires that the surviving spouse be allowed to live in the home during the remainder of his or her lifetime. This is true regardless of whether the decedent had a will or if the intestacy laws apply.

Take, for example, a situation where the homeowner decedent had children from a first marriage, but then remarried and the second spouse survived the decedent. In that scenario, the surviving second spouse would have a right to keep living in the home until his or her death. Only then, would the children from the first marriage have a claim to the home.

The interplay between laws like the homestead exemption and inheritance laws can get very complicated depending on the facts and circumstances of the scenario. An experienced probate and estate administration attorney may be able to help see that a person's will and other estate planning documents account for and adhere to all relevant laws.

Source: The 2015 Florida Statutes, "Descent of homestead," Accessed on Sept. 21, 2015

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