Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Florida
what is a surviving spouse entitled to?
my dad passed away on june 14, 2003 and did not have a will. what is his surviving spouse entitled to ie: property, bank accounts etc. his bills were only in his name, can the bill collectors attack his estate ie: bank account, life insurance policy. and make his surviving spouse pay for his bills? can she represent herself in probate court? and if so what forms have to be filed? if you can let me know i can download them and scan them to her.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: what is a surviving spouse entitled to?
Assuming she is second wife, basically she is entitled to one-half of his probate estate, plus life estate in home (if in his name alone), plus a family allowance of up to $18,000, plus personal use automobile. She also would own most assets held jointly with him, such as home, bank, etc. The other one-half passes to his children. His creditors have the right to file claims against his probate estate only (meaning they cannot go after anything which passes directly due to joint ownership or beneficiary designation). So she should never be liable for more than the value of his probate estate. Since she is not the only heir, in Florida she must have an attorney. From a practical point of view, she would need one anyway. The forms to be filed are not simple fill-in-the-blank, and thus cannot be faxed to her, but would be completed by the attorney. She needs to go to talk with a probate attorney who offers a free consultation to see what needs to be done. She can certainly shop around for a reasonably-priced attorney. The probate would take place in the county where he resided, but any Florida attorney could handle the probate even if living in another area.