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Daytona Beach probate attorney Thomas Upchurch of Upchurch Law offers services to those in need of an elder law attorneyestate planning & estate litigation attorneyprobate attorney, and more. When you are looking for someone to handle your affairs, you need an experienced Florida probate attorney who has handled many different situations.

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • What is the deadline for exercising the right to an elective share?
    The surviving spouse must file his or her election within six months of being served with Letters of Administration or two years after the date of death—whichever comes first. It is possible to obtain an extension to claim the elective share, but there’s a deadline for that, too, so the sooner you speak with an experienced estate lawyer and gather the information you need to move forward, the better.
  • Does Florida have an inheritance or estate tax?
    The state of Florida does not impose either an estate tax or an inheritance tax. That means that the estate itself is not taxed, and beneficiaries are not taxed on the property they receive through intestate succession or administration of a will. Florida residents who inherit estates may be subject to federal taxes, but this only applies to estates valued at more than $11.2 million (as of 2018)
  • What will the surviving spouse inherit in Florida?

    The elective share is just one factor in determining how much the surviving spouse will inherit in Florida. For example, if there is no provision for disposition of the deceased’s assets, the surviving spouse will receive either the entire estate or half of the estate—more than he or she would receive through the elective share.

    Alternatively, the deceased spouse may have bequeathed the surviving spouse the full estate, or some portion of the estate that is larger than the elective share.

    If the surviving spouse chooses the elective share, he or she will receive 30%, though calculation of that share is not as straightforward and clear as the percentage makes it sound

    It is also important to note that the surviving spouse—like any beneficiary—receives bequests from the estate based on the value of the estate remaining after debts of the estate, taxes, and costs of administration have been paid. Thus, 30% or 50% of the estate won’t be equal to 30% or 50% of the deceased spouse’s property. And, if the deceased left the surviving spouse a specific bequest, such as $250,000 rather than a share of the estate, the spouse will receive the full amount only if it remains available after expenses of the estate are paid.

  • Can an unmarried partner inherit?

    An unmarried partner can inherit if the deceased leaves behind a will, trust, or other vehicle that names the partner as a beneficiary. However, an unmarried partner is not entitled to inherit through intestate succession when there is no will, and will not be entitled to an elective share.

    Further, if the deceased partner was legally married to someone else at the time of his or her death, the surviving spouse’s elective share will take precedence over the terms of the will. Under those circumstances, the unmarried partner may receive less than the deceased intended, or even nothing.

  • Does a will supersede a spouse's interest in the estate?
    In short, no. In fact, choosing the elective share is also known as “electing against the will.” In simple terms, this gives the surviving spouse the opportunity to reject the terms of the deceased spouse’s will and instead take the share provided by Florida law.
  • Can a spouse be disinherited?

    In Florida, a surviving spouse cannot be effectively disinherited. If the decedent does not leave behind a will or other provision for disposition of assets after his or her death, the Florida law of intestate succession directs all or part of the estate to the surviving spouse.

    If the decedent has a will that leaves the spouse out, actively attempts to disinherit the spouse, or simply leaves the spouse less than the elective share under Florida law, the surviving spouse can simply opt for his or her elective share over the terms of the will.

  • What is elective share in Florida?

    Every state calculates the spouse’s elective share a bit differently. In Florida, the surviving spouse is entitled to 30% of the “elective estate.” However, determining exactly what is and is not included in the elective estate and the value of those assets can be complicated.

    For example, homestead property is included in the elective estate. But, how that property is valued for purposes of calculating the surviving spouse’s share of the estate depends on the legal interest the spouse receives and other factors. And, property may be counted toward the surviving spouse’s elective share even if that property is not part of the deceased’s estate.

    A local estate attorney who is experienced in handling elective share matters can be the best source of information about what is and is not included in the elective estate and how value will be determined.

  • Does a will override a trust?

    Although wills and trusts are both tools people can use to pass property after death, they are entirely separate and one does not supersede the other. A will dictates how property belonging to the deceased will be distributed after his or her death. However, property that has been placed in trust is the property of the trust, not of the deceased.

    A will and a trust may be used in combination. However, property that has been transferred into the trust and not transferred back out does not become part of the estate, and will be distributed according to the terms of the trust. Similarly, property that has not been transferred to the trust will pass through the deceased’s estate, whether under the terms of a will or intestate succession.

  • Can the executor of a will take everything?

    The executor of a will is legally bound to dispose of assets as the law requires and the will dictates. That means paying taxes, debts of the estate, and costs of administration, and then distributing the remainder of the estate to the designated beneficiaries. Occasionally, an executor may decide not to play by the rules, or may simply not be competent to manage the estate as required.

    Florida law protects beneficiaries from executor misconduct in a variety of ways, from reporting requirements to a process for removal of an executor who is not fulfilling his or her responsibilities. A local estate planning attorney can help assess the situation and determine the best approach under your specific circumstances.

  • What does it mean for the testator to be incapacitated?

    A will may be properly executed and still deemed invalid. One of the most common will challenges involves a claim that the testator lacked the capacity to make a will. This often arises with regard to elderly testators or those who were already suffering a final illness when the will was created.

    Capacity is determined on a case-by-case basis—the simple fact that the testator is of advanced age, is seriously ill, or even has been diagnosed with a condition that could potentially impact mental functioning won’t necessarily lead to a determination that the will is invalid. Rather, the court will look at the specific circumstances at the time the will was executed, including any medical condition, the impact of medications the testator may have been taking, and other factors.

    Will contests based on incapacity typically rely on witness testimony, of both medical professionals and of those who had the opportunity to observe the testator at and near the time the will was created and signed.

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