Florida’s Inheritance Laws
Whether you plan to retire in Florida and want to better understand Florida’s inheritance laws so you can be sure your heirs can access your estate with as little trouble as possible or you are the heir to a deceased loved one’s Florida estate, it is essential that you understand Florida’s inheritance laws. The Fort Lauderdale probate litigation lawyers at the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A., can advise you of all you need to know regarding these somewhat lenient laws. However, if a more basic understanding is what you want right now, keep reading.
Inheritance and Estate Taxes in Florida
Florida is one of the most tax friendly states on nearly all fronts. Both working age individuals and retirees enjoy no income tax, no Social Security or pension income tax, sales tax exemptions on basic necessities, and property tax exemptions for those who fall into particular groups (such as seniors aged 65 or older). Florida is also one of the few states that charges neither an estate nor inheritance tax.
However, according to SmartAsset, some estates may be subject to the federal estate tax rate, and certain gifts subject to the federal inheritance tax rate. Your estate or the estate in question may be subject to the federal estate tax rate if it is valued at or more than $11,180,000. Gifts may be subject to taxation if you gift more than $15,000. If your estate is subject to federal taxation, you would need to apply for an EIN for the estate for filing purposes.
Dying With a Will in Florida
If you or a decedent dies with a will in Florida, estate administration is exponentially easier than if there is no will. However, you must make sure the will is valid. Running the document by an experienced Fort Lauderdale probate lawyer is always a good idea as he or she can review the terms of the will and make sure they are all acceptable by law. However, one basic requirement you can see to yourself is proper signing. For the law to recognize a will as valid, it must have been signed by the testator in front of no fewer than two people. That said, if an injury, physical impairment, or illness prevents the testator from signing the will him or herself, he or she can direct another individual to sign the document in his or her presence. The witnesses must sign the will as well.
With a signed and valid will to go off of, an executor will handle the disbursement of property. The disposition of an estate can happen in one of three ways:
- Disposition Without Administration: This is the most straightforward disposition option, as it entails using the value of the estate to reimburse the person who paid for the deceased’s final expenses. If the deceased’s property and assets are not enough to cover the cost of final expenses and/or the estate’s formal debts, you may still file a request but the courts are unlikely to intervene.
- Summary Administration: Summary administration involves some court attention. You begin this process by filing a petition stating you would like the estate to be disposed of according to the will’s terms. You may only use this option if the estate’s value is less than $75,000 or if the death occurred more than two years ago.
- Formal Administration: Formal administration, or probate, is the lengthiest process and involves considerable court intervention. Probate is necessary for estates that have a value of more than $75,000. Before allowing the executor to proceed with disbursement, the courts will review the will to ensure its validity. It will then oversee the distribution of the estate.
Dying Without a Will in Florida
When a person dies without a will in Florida, his or her estate is subject to the state’s intestate succession laws. Generally speaking, the Florida courts will resort to the “per stripes” method of distribution if a person passes without a will. This method involves giving equal share of the estate’s property to those first in line for distribution. For instance, if a person dies without a spouse but with four children, the children would each receive 25 percent of the deceased parent’s estate.
Of course, the per stripes method rarely applies to situations. In cases in which a person dies with a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse will receive the entire estate, even if there are surviving children. However, if a decedent has surviving children with a person who is not his or her surviving spouse, the surviving spouse will only receive half of the estate, and the remaining half will go to the all surviving children.
If a person passes with no spouse but surviving children, the entire estate goes to the children.
If a person dies without a spouse or surviving children, the following individuals have rights to the estate. The list is in order of Florida intestate priority:
- Nieces and nephews;
- Aunts and uncles;
- Cousins; and
- Family of past spouse, if applicable.
Begin Planning Your Estate Today
Regardless of where you are at in your life—on the verge of retirement or just beginning your career—it does not hurt to learn your state’s inheritance laws and to begin planning your estate. An experienced Fort Lauderdale probate attorney can advise you on what steps are reasonable for you to take today so that you can be better prepared for what tomorrow might bring. Contact the law office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A., today to get started.