Florida: A Safe Haven for Surviving Spouses in Probate
Marriage is one of the most sacred and respected institutions in our society. Both state and federal governments provide benefits to encourage marriage with beneficial incentives. Florida provides several benefits for surviving spouses as illustrated in Florida’s Constitution and Probate Code. This article reviews some of those benefits but is not an exhaustive list.
First, surviving spouses receive protection under Florida’s Homestead Exemption. The Florida Constitution prohibits a decedent from freely devising his or her homestead, when the decedent is survived by a spouse or minor child. Art. X, § 4 (c), Fla. Const. However, the decedent can devise a homestead to his surviving spouse if there is no minor child. § 732.4015 (1), Fla. Stat. (2010). If a decedent tries to devise a homestead to someone other than a surviving spouse or minor child under a will, then the homestead property will be transferred to the decedent’s surviving spouse and the decedent’s descendants, with the surviving spouse receiving a life estate in the homestead and the descendants receiving a remainder, per stirpes at the decedent’s death.§ 732.401 (1), Fla. Stat. (2012). Alternatively, “the surviving spouse may elect to take an undivided one-half interest in the homestead as a tenant in common, with the remaining undivided one-half interest vesting in the decedent’s descendants in being at the time of the decedent’s death, per stirpes.” § 732.401 (2), Fla. Stat. (2012). To receive the homestead exemption, “an individual must have an ownership interest in a residence that gives the individual the right to use and occupy it as his or her place of abode.” In re Alexander, 346 B.R. 546, 551 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 2006).