It is not hard to find probate cases involving multiple divorces, children born out of wedlock, and consecutive marriages. How are stepchildren treated by Florida probate law? Are they automatically entitled to inheritance? Read on to find the answer.
Do My Stepchildren Automatically Inherit in Florida? – The Verdict
If you are a Florida resident and have stepchildren, they will not automatically inherit from your estate upon death. State law has strict rules that preclude the inheritance rights of stepchildren.
To guarantee that your stepchildren will receive their share of your estate, you need to work with an expert attorney to build a solid estate plan.
Do My Stepchildren Automatically Inherit Through a Will in Florida?
A stepchild’s inheritance rights in Florida vary depending on whether the stepparent died with a will. If the deceased leaves a valid will, the court will verify whether the document contains express language to pass a share of the estate to stepchildren.
As long as the will has explicit directions to guarantee a stepchild’s right to inherit through probate, the person designated can claim his or her part in the stepparent’s estate.
If the will has no direct language about a stepchild’s right to inherit from the decedent’s estate, the stepchild is not entitled to the same legal benefit as biological or adopted children.
Stepchildren’s Inheritance Rights vs. Florida Intestacy
If a stepparent dies without a will, the decedent’s estate is considered to be “intestate.” Florida law has stricter statutory rules for intestate estates, including a default order of preference in the division and distribution of property.
The Florida Probate Code specifies that “any part of the estate of a decedent not effectively disposed of by will passes to the decedent’s heirs as prescribed in the following sections of this code.” (Fla. Stat. §732.101)
During the administration process, the laws of intestacy privilege the deceased’s surviving spouse, biological children, and other blood relatives. In such cases, adopted children have better chances of inheriting from an intestate estate than stepchildren.
As provided by Florida Statutes §732.102, “the intestate share of the surviving spouse is:
- If there is no surviving descendant of the decedent, the entire intestate estate
- If the decedent is survived by one or more descendants, all of whom are also descendants of the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has no other descendant, the entire intestate estate
- If there are one or more surviving descendants of the decedent who are not lineal descendants of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate estate
- If there are one or more surviving descendants of the decedent, all of whom are also descendants of the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has one or more descendants who are not descendants of the decedent, one-half of the intestate estate”
Alternative Estate Planning Tools to Protect Your Stepchildren’s Rights in Florida
The best alternative to protect a stepchild’s right upon death is working with an expert Florida attorney to build a solid estate plan.
This solution allows you to ensure specific assets or money will pass directly to your stepchildren with no court intervention or probate. Examples of valuable legal tools include property titled in the name of a trust, assets with designated beneficiaries, and enhanced life estate deeds.