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Homestead for Estate Purposes

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A will or trust is necessary if a decedent wants to control how his/her assets will be distributed upon passing. Without such a document, the state statutes will direct the manner of distribution. Each state can determine how distribution will go in an intestate situation. However, I want you to consider the question of homestead; not real estate homestead, but the question of homestead for estate purposes.

In Florida, most couples hold their real estate jointly (as tenants by the entities) so that when one passes it is owned by the surviving spouse. However, sometimes it's not. Occasionally, the real estate is held in only one spouse's name. Now we can start to have problems. Let's say that we have a single man who owns a home. Over time, he meets a woman, they date and then get married. They live together in the home for years. For whatever reason, they never change the title from him to both of them. After a few years of wedded bliss, along comes a new little bundle of joy. No, not a golden retriever puppy. They are the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl. Throughout the next many years, the family lives happily in the house. Just after her 17th birthday, dad suddenly passes away. After a time, the woman sees their family lawyer to be certain everything is taken care of properly. She learns that all of their assets, the bank account, investments, car, etc. are jointly held, and they belong to her with no probate needed. However, the attorney sees in the paperwork that the title to the house was never changed to both names. Even though the couple lived together in the home for over 20 years, it was still in the husband's name. The wife was only mildly concerned because she knew her husband's will left everything to her, anyway. Just then the lawyer delivered a stunning revelation.

The lawyer told the woman that she had a right to live in the house for the rest of her life (a life estate), but that her daughter owns the house! He explained to her that since their daughter was a minor and lived in the house as her home at the time of the man's death, it goes to the daughter by law. It doesn't make any difference what the man put in his will. What do you think?

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I understand that they never transferred the title to the wife as well once they got married. Going to a lawyer and anything concerning legal documentation costs money, and some people don't have the extra money to put towards something that really shouldn't make that big a difference if a will is determining ownership of the house. I do not agree with this law at all. I ...

Solution Summary

The homestead for estate purposes are examined. The differences of what a man puts in his will is determined.