What are Florida’s Inheritance Laws?

What are Florida’s Inheritance Laws?

If there’s one thing that most estate planners and estate beneficiaries can agree on, it’s that Florida is a beneficiary-friendly state, mainly due to its absence of inheritance taxes. Florida’s inheritance laws enable beneficiaries to receive the property and money that is rightfully theirs after their loved one’s passing without worrying about significant inheritance taxes.

However, the same laws also specify who are rightful beneficiaries, and what happens to assets before they can be handed off to heirs. Understanding the intricacies of Florida’s inheritance laws is crucial for those planning to pass an inheritance or expecting to receive an inheritance. There may be vital details about determining rightful heirs and managing tax obligations of which you are unaware.

Inheritance with a Will in Florida

In Florida, if a decedent leaves a will, the estate is distributed according to the wishes expressed in that document, provided it complies with state law. Florida requires the will to be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two individuals. The will typically appoints a personal representative (executor) who manages and distributes the estate’s assets under court supervision.

After a person passes away, the holder of the deceased’s valid will must submit it to the local court within 10 days of the death. The executor, or personal representative designated in the will, is responsible for distributing the assets. However, before the assets can be allocated to the beneficiaries, the estate must settle all outstanding taxes and debts, and reimburse any valid creditors. Once these obligations are met, the remaining assets are then distributed to the heirs.

Inheritance without a Will in Florida

Without a will, Florida’s intestacy laws dictate the distribution of the estate. The surviving spouse receives the entire estate if there are no children or if all children are mutually shared with the deceased spouse. If there are children from outside the marriage, the spouse inherits half of the estate, with the remaining half divided equally among the children of the decedent.

If the deceased leaves behind no spouse or descendants, but has surviving parents, these parents will inherit the entire estate. Similarly, if there is no spouse,descendants, or surviving parents, but the deceased has siblings, then these siblings will inherit everything. In cases where there are no identifiable family members or distant relatives, an heir search may need to be undertaken to determine the rightful heirs.  In rare circumstances where no heirs exist, the estate will be given to the State of Florida, a process known as escheatment.

Spouses’ Rights to Inheritance

In Florida, a surviving spouse has the most robust entitlements under intestate inheritance laws. Besides being the primary beneficiary, they are eligible for financial assistance during the probate period, which can become lengthy. This support includes a family allowance that can reach up to $18,000 to help with living expenses during probate. In addition, the spouse may be entitled to up to two motor vehicles owned by the decedent that are protected from creditor claims.


Florida is also an elective share state, which means that if a surviving spouse is left out of a will, in many cases they can choose to claim a portion of the elective estate, which even includes assets that could pass by beneficiary designation and are outside of the probate estate. 

Inheritance Rights of Children

Florida law protects the inheritance rights of biological and legally adopted children. Even if biological children were conceived outside of marriage, they may still inherit as long as paternity can be proven either through scientific methods or recognition of the parent before death. Children born after a will is made, even if not mentioned in the will, are still entitled to a portion of the intestate estate.

In contrast, stepchildren or foster children not legally adopted do not automatically receive inheritance rights unless named in a will. Biological children who were put up for adoption also lose their right to inherit.

Divorce and Inheritance

In Florida, divorce revokes any provisions in a will that favor the ex-spouse unless the will explicitly states otherwise or the will was signed after the divorce. However, if the decedent dies while a divorce is pending or after the couple has separated, the spouse still retains inheritance rights.

Beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and similar assets are not automatically revoked by divorce and should be updated by the policyholder.

Tax Implications

Florida does not impose an inheritance tax or an estate tax, but this does not exempt estates from all tax liabilities. Estates must still file a federal estate tax return if the estate exceeds the federal exemption limit, and income-generating assets within the estate may also be subject to federal income taxes.

Probate and Asset Exemption

Certain assets bypass probate in Florida, including jointly held assets, life insurance proceeds paid directly to a beneficiary, and accounts designated as “payable on death” or “transfer on death.” Probate processes can vary, typically lasting a few months to over a year, depending on the estate’s complexity and whether there are disputes.

Creating Your Will and Planning for the Future

Florida’s inheritance laws can be complex, and ensuring beneficiary rights can be difficult without professional legal assistance. At Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., we specialize in Florida estate planning and elder law, ensuring that your estate planning meets legal standards and your future wishes are honored. If you are considering drafting a will or need expert advice on Florida inheritance laws, contact us today. Let us help you secure your legacy and provide peace of mind for your loved ones.

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