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Do Unmarried Partners Have Any Inheritance Rights In Florida?

Inheritance

Millions of people are in loving, committed relationships that do not involve marriage. Indeed, many couples are putting off or simply avoiding marriage altogether. There can be many benefits to this, but there are also some potential drawbacks, particularly when it comes to inheritance rights.

To put it simply, unmarried partners have no inheritance rights when it come to an intestate estate–i.e., a probate estate where the decedent left no legal will. For instance, say Scott and James have lived together in a committed relationship for the past 20 years. Scott dies after suffering a heart attack. It turned out he had no will. Under the law, James has no legal standing to either inherit Scott’s property or serve as personal representative of his estate. It does not matter that everyone treated Scott and James as an “old married couple” for years. Without a legal marriage, James might as well be a complete stranger.

Proper Estate Planning Is Key

Of course, with proper estate planning, unmarried partners can effectively enjoy many of the same rights as legally married spouses. By making a will you can name an unmarried partner as your beneficiary and executor. Similarly, unmarried partners can create a revocable trust together and fund it with their assets. A trust can be especially useful for transferring title to both real and personal property outside without the need for probate.

Speaking of real estate, unmarried partners can jointly title their home together. The fact that both parties may contribute to the upkeep of the home is not enough to create ownership. There needs to be a deed naming both partners as owners. If the deed is titled as a joint tenancy with survivorship rights, the surviving partner can automatically assume full ownership of the property upon the other partner’s death–again, without the need to worry about probate. Similarly, it is possible to jointly title other types of assets, such as bank accounts, to provide similar survivorship rights.

Limits on Legal Rights for Unmarried Partners

There are, however, some limitations on how far unmarried partners can go to emulate the same types of inheritance rights enjoyed by married spouses. In Florida, a surviving spouse has the right to take an “elective share” of the deceased spouse’s estate regardless of what the latter’s will may provide. This ensures that no spouse can fully disinherit the other. Such protections are not afforded to unmarried partners. Likewise, a surviving spouse and children are entitled to a “family allowance” during the probate process, a benefit not afforded to unmarried partners.

If you have additional questions or concerns about how to deal with a probate situation where a deceased person has left no will, it is always best to speak with a qualified attorney. Contact Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation with a qualified Pompano Beach estate & trust litigation attorney today.

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