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Florida Inheritance Laws

In Florida, there are no state taxes related to inheritance and the estates of those who have died. Below you’ll find detailed information about how the state handles its residents’ estates both when there’s a will present and not. Remember that heirs only receive what’s left of an estate after the decedent’s debts are paid off. If after reading this article you’d like to have a financial advisor help you plan or manage your estate with regard to Florida inheritance laws, the SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool will pair you with multiple advisors in your area based on your answers to just a few questions.

Does Florida Have an Inheritance Tax or Estate Tax?

There are no inheritance taxes or estate taxes under Florida law. This applies to the estates of any decedents who have passed away after December 31, 2004. If an individual’s death occurred prior to that time, then an estate tax return would need to be filed.

Just because Florida lacks an estate or inheritance tax doesn’t mean that there aren’t other tax filings that an estate must complete. Be sure to file the following:

  • Final individual state and federal income tax returns – due by tax day of the year following the individual’s death
  • Federal estate tax return – due nine months after the individual’s death
    • As of 2018, this is required only of individual estates that exceed a gross asset and prior taxable gift value of $11,180,000
    • Automatic six-month extensions are given if asked for prior to the conclusion of the aforementioned nine-month period
  • Federal estate/trust income tax return – due by April 15 of the year following the individual’s death

Because estates are not immediately considered their own entities in the eyes of the federal government and IRS, you are required to apply for an employer identification number (EIN). This ID number will represent the estate on tax returns, and online, fax and mail-in applications are available.

Dying With a Will in Florida

For your will to be considered valid under Florida inheritance laws, you must personally sign it in front of no fewer than two witnesses. However, if an injury, illness or other physical impairment prohibits you from signing yourself, you can direct another individual to sign it in your presence. Following this, the witnesses are required to sign the will as well. Aside from the technicalities above, a valid will also names an executor who will handle the disbursement of all property listed as part of the estate, along with clearly labeled recipients for each piece of property.

Once the decedent has died, the individual who has possession of the valid will must file it with the local court no later than 10 days after the death. From there, one of three situations will play out: disposition without administration, summary administration and formal administration.

Disposition without administration is meant to use the value of a decedent’s estate to pay back the individual who paid for his or her final expenses, such as a funeral. However, it can only be filed if the deceased owned no land or real estate and his or her leftover assets either don’t cover any final expenses or they’re unable to be used to pay off the estate’s formal debts. In this case, there is no intervention from the court, though you still must file your request.

Summary administration is the next possibility and involves some attention from the court. You must begin this process by filing a “Petition for Summary Administration,” stating that you’d like the estate to be given to the decedent’s heirs via the executor listed in the will. This option is only eligible, though, if the probate value of the estate is less than $75,000 or the death happened more than two years ago.

The lengthiest process and overall last resort is formal administration, and opens with the court deciding if the will is valid according to Florida law. If so, the executor named in the will is afforded the ability to handle the deceased’s wishes as they’re listed, though the court will look to ensure the will is disbursed correctly.

Dying Without a Will in Florida

Florida Inheritance Laws

If a Florida resident dies without having a valid will, his or her estate is left up to the mercy of intestate succession laws to decide who has legal right to its contents. The term “intestate” refers either to an individual who dies without a will or without a valid will. Even for those with a valid will, the intestate process may be required for certain property if the will doesn’t clearly and completely spell out who is meant to receive it.

Florida will afford all intestate heirs equal share of the estate’s property, a style legally known as “per stirpes.” For example, if your four biological and/or adopted children were deemed the sole legal heirs to your property, each of them would receive 25%.

Although the court ultimately chooses how property is divvied up among a decedent’s relatives, it doesn’t actually disburse the estate. Instead, it will appoint either the surviving spouse, an individual elected by the majority of heirs, the most-closely related/best-qualified heir or anyone deemed capable enough to handle such the job.

Spouses in Florida Inheritance Law

The surviving spouse of a decedent possesses the strongest rights to an intestate estate as far as Florida inheritance laws are concerned. In fact, he or she will receive your entire estate if you have no surviving children or if your only surviving children were with your spouse. But if not all of your surviving children were with your spouse or you each have children with other people, your spouse will only receive half of the estate. In turn, the other half goes to your children.

Florida affords widows and widowers currently going through a probate case some rights to help them get through the sometimes long process. In addition to receiving access to their late spouse’s vehicle if they require transportation, they’ll also be given a family allowance of up to $18,000 to cover the costs of life.

As an elective share state, any surviving spouses in Florida who are disinherited from a decedent’s will will have a choice to take part of the estate. Any non-probate assets, like cash and investment accounts, cannot be wholly taken, though.

Divorces in Florida Inheritance Law

Under Florida intestate law, a spouse will lose all inheritance rights when he or she divorces the decedent. But if the decedent passes away during the divorce process or after the couple become separated, the spouse will maintain inheritance rights.

Children in Florida Inheritance Law

The only conditions under which a decedent’s children will receive their parent’s full intestate estate is if the parent dies without a surviving spouse. If both you and your spouse are their parents, the children will receive nothing. But they will get half of your estate if your surviving children expand beyond you and your surviving spouse’s relationship.

Intestate Succession: Spouses & Children
Inheritance Situation Who Inherits Your Property
– If spouse, but no children – Entire estate to spouse
– If spouse and children only from relationship with spouse – Entire estate to spouse
– If spouse and children both from relationship with spouse and another person – 1/2 of estate to spouse
– 1/2 of estate to all children
– If spouse and children from relationship with spouse, and spouse has children with another person – 1/2 of estate to spouse
– 1/2 of estate to only your children
– If children, but no spouse – Entire estate to children

Under Florida intestate succession laws, biological children hold the strongest inheritance rights of any type of child. This applies regardless of if the children were born within a marriage or not, as long as paternity can be proven, either via science or your own recognition prior to your death. Although grandchildren are also directly related to you, they are not given automatic inheritance power unless their parent, or your child, has died.

Adopted children have the same inheritance rights as biological children, according to Florida inheritance laws. The same benefits apply to children who are conceived prior to your death, but are born following it.

Three types of children who could potentially be part of your life won’t receive inheritance rights: foster children, biological children put up for adoption and stepchildren. Because the Florida state government doesn’t see children within these groups as legally “yours,” they lose out on inheritances if you don’t have a valid will listing them as an heir.

Unmarried Individuals Without Children in Florida Inheritance Laws

The intestate inheritance process of Florida becomes a little more convoluted the further away from your closest relatives you get. Intestate succession dictates the estate should then go as follows, according to Florida inheritance laws:

Intestate Succession: Extended Family
Inheritance Situation Who Inherits Your Property
– If parents, but no spouse or children – Entire estate to parents
– If no parents – Entire estate to siblings
– If no siblings – Estate split evenly between nieces and nephews
– If no nieces and nephews – Estate split evenly between paternal/maternal grandparents
– If no grandparents – Estate split evenly between paternal/maternal aunts and uncles
– If no aunts and uncles – Estate split evenly between paternal/maternal cousins
– If no cousins – Entire estate to the family of a past spouse, if the ex-spouse is deceased

In the event that Florida is unable to locate and track down any of your remaining relatives to bestow your estate upon, it will escheat your property. This essentially means the state takes complete control of your property. If you have a very small or nonexistent family, you can easily avoid this by creating a will that names specific heirs.

Non-Probate Florida Inheritances

There are specific types of accounts and property of the deceased that won’t be subject to the probate process or any related processes for that matter. This is because at the time that ownership is granted under the following circumstances, a beneficiary or joint owner has already been named:

As far as inherited retirement accounts are concerned, the heirs of such finances must pay income tax on the assets they withdraw.

Other Situations in Florida Inheritance Laws

Florida Inheritance Laws

Half-blood members of your family hold literally half the inheritance rights of full-blood members in the eyes of Florida inheritance laws. So if intestate succession dictates that your full- and half-blood relatives must split ownership, those who are half-related to you will only be handed half of what their full-blood counterparts receive. But if all that remains are half-blood relatives, they are given full inheritances.

It doesn’t matter if an heir to your intestate estate isn’t a U.S. citizen or is living illegally in the U.S. He or she still remains a valid heir to the estate, regardless of the person’s standing with the federal government.

Should a decedent die via murder, the individual who was convicted for said murder will lose all rights to inheritance, according to Florida inheritance laws. A probate court also holds the ability to void all inheritance rights of even a suspected murderer in the event that the killing is deemed unlawful based on the existing criminal evidence.

Resources for Estate Planning

Managing your own estate, or handling the intricacies of inheriting money from the estate of a loved one who has passed away, includes many complex factors to consider. It can be such an overwhelming venture — with taxes to file, possible court proceedings to go through and more — that you might want some help.

SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool will pair you with nearby financial advisors equipped to handle your estate and inheritance planning needs. Depending on what you choose as your specific preferences and your current financial state, as many as three financial advisor will be matched with you. To learn more about individual advisors in your area, explore SmartAdvisor Match.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/artisteer, ©iStock.com/aphotostory

Chris Thompson, CEPF® Chris Thompson is a retirement, savings, mortgage and credit card expert at SmartAsset. He has reviewed hundreds of credit cards and loves helping people find the one that best matches their financial needs. Chris is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He graduated from Montclair State University where he received the Journalism Achievement Award. Chris’ articles have been featured in places like Yahoo Finance, MSN and Bleacher Report. He lives in New Jersey and is a Mets, Jets and Nets fan.
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