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My Parent Remarried. Will Their New Spouse Inherit Everything?

Nov. 23, 2021

Your divorced or widowed parent decides to remarry, and as his or her child, you start wondering if the new spouse will end up inheriting everything, leaving you out in the cold. Is this a logical fear?

Your fears about losing your inheritance will hinge on whether your newly remarried parent leaves an estate plan or dies intestate, that is, without a legal document designating heirs and the distribution of assets.

In Florida, a parent can disinherit adult children and basically leave them nothing, so long as this is specified through a will or living trust. However, if a parent dies intestate, state law guarantees that the children from a prior marriage will share in the inheritance.

If you have estate planning questions and you’re located in or around Boca Raton, Florida, contact Eric H. Light, P.A.

I have more than two decades of experience in helping others with their estate planning needs and in preparing the necessary legal documents to take care of their loved ones when the time comes. I can answer your questions and point you in the right direction for solutions to your problems when it comes to matters of inheritance.

Intestate Law in Florida

When someone dies without a will or trust in Florida, the state’s intestate laws dictate the distribution of assets. If your parent dies intestate, their estate will go through a process called probate in which a court appoints an administrator to survey the estate, pay off creditors and tax obligations, and then distribute the remainder to the heirs.

In short, children from previous marriages or relationships are protected under Florida’s laws of intestacy. The intestate hierarchy goes like this:

If there is only a surviving spouse, the spouse will receive 100 percent of the estate that remains after satisfying all other obligations. If there is both a spouse and children from the current marriage and the spouse has no children from a previous marriage, the spouse still inherits everything. If there are children from any other marriage or relationship, the spouse splits everything 50/50 with the children from the current marriage and the previous marriage (or relationship).

Assets Not Subject to Probate

You also need to take into consideration those assets that pass outside of probate, with or without a will. For instance, property held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship passes immediately to the joint tenant and will not be probated. The same holds true for life insurance policies or retirement plans that name a beneficiary. Joint bank accounts also transfer outside of probate.

What remains after assets not subject to probate pass to designated beneficiaries or joint owners represents the estate that is to be distributed to heirs.

For instance, if your parent who just remarried designates the new spouse as beneficiary of his or her retirement plan that holds $100,000 in assets, that $100,000 is not part of the estate to be probated.

A physical residence is treated differently under Florida’s constitutional homestead exemption.

Say your remarried, deceased parent owns a home valued at $400,000 held only in his or her name. That home will pass to the surviving spouse as a life estate, which will become the children’s property after the surviving spouse’s death.

Alternately, the surviving spouse has six months in which to elect to take a one-half undivided interest in the property. If the spouse chooses the property as a life estate, he or she cannot sell or rent the property, only reside in it. A half-interest allows for a sale or other disposition.

Children’s Inheritance Rights in Florida

The section above describes how children are legally entitled to at least half of a deceased, remarried parent’s estate if the parent dies intestate. If the parent executes a will or trust, however, he or she can disinherit adult children who are estranged or considered undeserving.

If the children are not adults, however, a previous divorce settlement may guarantee that minor children receive what is due to them under the divorce decree for child support. This could also hold true if the divorce included any property settlement agreements.

Estate Planning Attorney
in Boca Raton, Florida

If you are the child of a remarried parent whose estate is going through probate, you may have questions and concerns about how ironclad the process is. Can the surviving spouse attempt to win more than their fair share (50 percent) through legal or procedural maneuvers?

In addition, what if the administrator valuing the estate underestimates or overlooks assets that could add to your inheritance? You may wish to have an attorney on your side to evaluate what’s going on and to represent your interests.

Whatever your estate planning or probate concerns or questions are, feel free to contact Eric H. Light, P.A. I proudly serve clients in and around the greater Boca Raton area of Florida. I will work diligently to protect your assets and your inheritance.