A Spouse’s Rights Even If a Will Leaves You Nothing

Spouse RightsYou may think that if you’ve been written out of your spouse’s will, you won’t inherit a thing, but that may not be true. Ditto if your partner drafted their will before you were married. That’s because Florida law protects spouses from total disinheritance, regardless of what a will says.

A husband or wife, for instance, has rights regarding your primary, or “homesteaded,” home. If your spouse has no children, the home would automatically pass to you. Even if he or she has kids from a prior marriage and left the house to them, you still have the legal option to live in the house for the rest of your life (known as a life estate), or to immediately become a 50 percent owner of the home.

Beyond your house, a spouse is also entitled to some of the deceased person’s money. In general, the law gives you 30 percent of your late spouse’s assets, including assets that fall outside the probate, such as property in a trust in their name. This also holds if the person wrote their will before they married you and left all their stuff to a parent or someone else.

The law also provides for a disinherited spouse to receive some money, called a family allowance, from the estate’s assets even before the probate is completed and all the money is distributed.

Of course, all of these rights may have been waived by the spouse if he or she signed a valid premarital or postmarital agreement.

Don’t try to understand these complex laws yourself. If you live in South Florida and need the advice of a probate attorney, contact us at The Law Office of Gary M. Landau, P.A.