How Much of a Husband's Estate Is a Widow in Florida Entitled To?

By Heather Frances J.D.

In Florida, a husband is free to leave everything to his wife in his will, if he has a will. However, if he doesn’t make a will – or if he makes a will but doesn’t leave enough of his estate to his wife – Florida law steps in to determine how much of the husband’s estate the wife is entitled to when he dies.

Intestate Succession

Like other states, Florida has a set of laws that dictate how much a surviving spouse receives if her husband dies without a will, or intestate. According to Florida’s laws of intestate succession, a wife whose husband dies intestate is entitled to receive the entire estate if neither the husband nor wife has descendants.

Intestate Succession with Children

Under Florida’s intestate succession laws, when a husband dies and either the husband or wife has descendants, such as children, the wife’s share changes. If the husband’s descendants are also descendants of the wife, the wife will inherit the husband’s entire estate as long as she doesn’t have any other descendants. If she does have other descendants, she will receive only half of his estate. For example, if the husband and wife have two children together and the wife has no other children, she will inherit the entire estate when her husband dies. However, if the wife also has another child from a previous relationship, she will receive only half of the estate; the children they had together will receive the other half. Similarly, if the husband had children from a previous relationship, his children will receive half of his estate and his wife will receive half.

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Elective Share

If the husband leaves a will, the laws of intestate succession don’t apply. Instead, Florida’s elective share laws state that a wife has a right to 30 percent of her deceased spouse's estate, known as her “elective share,” and may choose to take that share rather than the share she would inherit under the terms of the will. Even if the husband disinherited his wife in his will, she is entitled to the elective share.

Property Included in Elective Estate

An elective estate includes more than just the husband’s probate estate, which is the estate distributed by the will. It also includes the value of the husband’s share of property that passes directly to other beneficiaries. For example, if the husband owned property with his brother as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the property may pass automatically to his brother, but half of the value of this property is included in the elective estate.

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What Must a Surviving Spouse Inherit?

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The Widow's Legal Rights in South Carolina

South Carolina law provides a surviving spouse with the right to inherit from her deceased spouse's estate. An estate includes all property the decedent acquired during his lifetime. If a decedent had a will, the widow receives any bequest from the will. If there is a will, but the spouse is not included, she will still receive an inheritance in accordance with South Carolina's "elective share" laws. If a decedent dies without a will, the widow will inherit based on South Carolina's laws of intestate succession.

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