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JudyAnn Smith – Best Law Firm in Jacksonville

The Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A. located in Jacksonville, Florida provides legal services in the areas of Inheritance Law, Probate, Wills, Trusts and Estate Law to meet the needs and goals of individuals and families throughout the state of Florida.

Inheritance laws in Florida may seem somewhat confusing and similar to most other states, there are differences in how an estate is handled if someone has a will or trust in place, or if they die without a will (known as intestate).

Dealing with Inheritances and Wills

In Florida, if someone dies and has a will the estate will go through the probate process. The court certifies the validity of the will and approves the named personal representative (executor). Once the personal representative is approved, they have an obligation to gather any assets that are not jointly owned, or have named beneficiaries and obtain a valuation.

Beneficiaries and creditors of the decedent are then notified by the personal representative. Any heir who believes they should be entitled to an inheritance of an estate and was not named in the will may have a legal right to file a petition to determine beneficiaries.

Dealing with Inheritances and Trusts

While the purpose of a trust is generally to avoid probate, the trustee is still required to notify the probate court using a document called a Notice of Trust. This is to ensure that all beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors of the decedents are aware of the death and allow creditors to file claims against the trust for unpaid debts. The Notice of Trust should be filed as soon as possible after death of the trust creator.

Decedent with No Will and No Trust

Florida laws requires assets of a decedent who have no will to be distributed according to Florida’s intestacy laws. Inheritance rights are given to spouses, children, parents, or siblings of a decedent. There are slightly modified rules when someone has been married multiple times. Some of the common distributions are:

  • Spouse and minor children – no children from a prior marriage – Spouse inherits 100 percent of the estate
  • Spouse and minor children – children from current and prior marriage – spouse inherits 50 percent and all children inherit remaining 50 percent
  • Parents, no spouse, no children – parents inherit 100 percent of the estate
  • No parents, no spouse, no children – siblings inherit everything

In the event a person dies and has no living relatives, however obscure, the state will claim the entire estate; this is very rare because the state will go to great lengths to identify a living heir.

Rather than take chances of your family members fighting over an inheritance, it is a good idea to have an estate plan in place. If you live anywhere in Florida, contact the Jacksonville office of Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A. for help with preparing an estate plan, or contesting a will, or trust if you believe you were entitled to an inheritance.