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Inheritance Rights

Understanding Spousal Inheritance Rights in Florida

In this section from his book, “Pankauski’s Probate Litigation: Top 10 Estate Mistakes Revealed”, John Pankauski explains dealing with inheritance claims from a former spouse.

Enemy of the Estate:

Your adult children hate your latest spouse and all your exes, if they aren’t their own parents.

Mistake: believing your last spouse and kids won’t fight over money

Our probate law firm is mired in family fights. We often say we fight over blood and money. When we speak of blood, of course, we’re talking about the family relationship itself. There’s rarely actual bloodshed involved. This and the money and property seem to be the common threads of a probate litigation practice.

Add a new or latest spouse to the mix and you’re almost guaranteed a good brawl.

America loves divorce and multiple spouses. Somehow, those marriage vows of staying together in sickness and in health, swearing, “’til death do us part,” take a back seat later on, after you step off the alter.

This might explain why half of US marriages end in divorce. Even the divorce attorneys are divorced.

And – even after kids and a first marriage – some are creating “second families,” with their second or third spouses. In Palm Beach, we see second and third spouses who are younger than their mate’s adult children from a first marriage or prior relationship.

Step parents and step children don’t get along to begin with: do you think they’ll ever get along when money is at issue? Of course not! They fight like cats and dogs!

And they hire me to do that.

Probate litigators can end up being an unintended beneficiary of your estate when blood and money are involved.

So – while your adult kids and your latest spouse are smiling and friendly at birthdays and holiday gatherings, the truth is that, once you’re gone, that congeniality dissipates.

This is about the time the lawyers enter. They’ll want all your money and don’t want the “other side” to receive anything. Your kids or “family” are thus then pitted against your last spouse.

It would be a mistake to not consider how your latest spouse and your adult children will deal with what you leave them – or with what you choose not leave them.

Will your last spouse even have a relationship with your adult children after you die? Do they even like each other? Or, can they not stand the sight of each other?

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