Exempt Property and Allowances Under Florida’s Probate Statute
EXEMPT PROPERTY AND ALLOWANCES
732.401 Descent of homestead.
732.4015 Devise of homestead.
732.4017 Inter vivos transfer of homestead property.
732.402 Exempt property.
732.403 Family allowance.
1732.401 Descent of homestead.—
(1) If not devised as authorized by law and the constitution, the homestead shall descend in the same manner as other intestate property; but if the decedent is survived by a spouse and one or more descendants, the surviving spouse shall take a life estate in the homestead, with a vested remainder to the descendants in being at the time of the decedent’s death per stirpes.
(2) In lieu of a life estate under subsection (1), the surviving spouse may elect to take an undivided one-half interest in the homestead as a tenant in common, with the remaining undivided one-half interest vesting in the decedent’s descendants in being at the time of the decedent’s death, per stirpes.
(a) The right of election may be exercised:
1. By the surviving spouse; or
2. With the approval of a court having jurisdiction of the real property, by an attorney in fact or guardian of the property of the surviving spouse. Before approving the election, the court shall determine that the election is in the best interests of the surviving spouse during the spouse’s probable lifetime.
(b) The election must be made within 6 months after the decedent’s death and during the surviving spouse’s lifetime. The time for making the election may not be extended except as provided in paragraph (c).
(c) A petition by an attorney in fact or by a guardian of the property of the surviving spouse for approval to make the election must be filed within 6 months after the decedent’s death and during the surviving spouse’s lifetime. If the petition is timely filed, the time for making the election shall be extended for at least 30 days after the rendition of the order allowing the election.
(d) Once made, the election is irrevocable.
(e) The election shall be made by filing a notice of election containing the legal description of the homestead property for recording in the official record books of the county or counties where the homestead property is located. The notice must be in substantially the following form:
ELECTION OF SURVIVING SPOUSE
TO TAKE A ONE-HALF INTEREST OF
DECEDENT’S INTEREST IN
1. The decedent, , died on . On the date of the decedent’s death, The decedent was married to , who survived the decedent.
2. At the time of the decedent’s death, the decedent owned an interest in real property that the affiant believes to be homestead property described in s. 4, Article X of the State Constitution, which real property being in County, Florida, and described as: (description of homestead property) .
3. Affiant elects to take one-half of decedent’s interest in the homestead as a tenant in common in lieu of a life estate.
4. If affiant is not the surviving spouse, affiant is the surviving spouse’s attorney in fact or guardian of the property, and an order has been rendered by a court having jurisdiction of the real property authorizing the undersigned to make this election.
Sworn to (or affirmed) and subscribed before me this day of (month) , (year) , by (affiant)
(Signature of Notary Public-State of Florida)
(Print, Type, or Stamp Commissioned Name of Notary Public)
Personally Known OR Produced Identification
(Type of Identification Produced)
(3) Unless and until an election is made under subsection (2), expenses relating to the ownership of the homestead shall be allocated between the surviving spouse, as life tenant, and the decedent’s descendants, as remaindermen, in accordance with chapter 738. If an election is made, expenses relating to the ownership of the homestead shall be allocated between the surviving spouse and the descendants as tenants in common in proportion to their respective shares, effective as of the date the election is filed for recording.
(4) If the surviving spouse’s life estate created in subsection (1) is disclaimed pursuant to chapter 739, the interests of the decedent’s descendants may not be divested.
(5) This section does not apply to property that the decedent owned in tenancy by the entireties or in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.
732.4015 Devise of homestead.—
(1) As provided by the Florida Constitution, the homestead shall not be subject to devise if the owner is survived by a spouse or a minor child or minor children, except that the homestead may be devised to the owner’s spouse if there is no minor child or minor children.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the term:
(a) “Owner” includes the grantor of a trust described in s. 733.707(3) that is evidenced by a written instrument which is in existence at the time of the grantor’s death as if the interest held in trust was owned by the grantor.
(b) “Devise” includes a disposition by trust of that portion of the trust estate which, if titled in the name of the grantor of the trust, would be the grantor’s homestead.
(3) If an interest in homestead has been devised to the surviving spouse as authorized by law and the constitution, and the surviving spouse’s interest is disclaimed, the disclaimed interest shall pass in accordance with chapter 739.
732.4017 Inter vivos transfer of homestead property.—
(1) If the owner of homestead property transfers an interest in that property, including a transfer in trust, with or without consideration, to one or more persons during the owner’s lifetime, the transfer is not a devise for purposes of s. 731.201(10) or s. 732.4015, and the interest transferred does not descend as provided in s. 732.401 if the transferor fails to retain a power, held in any capacity, acting alone or in conjunction with any other person, to revoke or revest that interest in the transferor.
(2) As used in this section, the term “transfer in trust” refers to a trust under which the transferor of the homestead property, alone or in conjunction with another person, does not possess a right of revocation as that term is defined in s. 733.707(3)(e). A power possessed by the transferor which is exercisable during the transferor’s lifetime to alter the beneficial use and enjoyment of the interest within a class of beneficiaries identified only in the trust instrument is not a right of revocation if the power may not be exercised in favor of the transferor, the transferor’s creditors, the transferor’s estate, or the creditors of the transferor’s estate or exercised to discharge the transferor’s legal obligations. This subsection does not create an inference that a power not described in this subsection is a power to revoke or revest an interest in the transferor.
(3) The transfer of an interest in homestead property described in subsection (1) may not be treated as a devise of that interest even if:
(a) The transferor retains a separate legal or equitable interest in the homestead property, directly or indirectly through a trust or other arrangement such as a term of years, life estate, reversion, possibility of reverter, or fractional fee interest;
(b) The interest transferred does not become a possessory interest until a date certain or upon a specified event, the occurrence or nonoccurrence of which does not constitute a power held by the transferor to revoke or revest the interest in the transferor, including, without limitation, the death of the transferor; or
(c) The interest transferred is subject to divestment, expiration, or lapse upon a date certain or upon a specified event, the occurrence or nonoccurrence of which does not constitute a power held by the transferor to revoke or revest the interest in the transferor, including, without limitation, survival of the transferor.
(4) It is the intent of the Legislature that this section clarify existing law.
732.402 Exempt property.—
(1) If a decedent was domiciled in this state at the time of death, the surviving spouse, or, if there is no surviving spouse, the children of the decedent shall have the right to a share of the estate of the decedent as provided in this section, to be designated “exempt property.”
(2) Exempt property shall consist of:
(a) Household furniture, furnishings, and appliances in the decedent’s usual place of abode up to a net value of $20,000 as of the date of death.
(b) Two motor vehicles as defined in s. 316.003(21), which do not, individually as to either such motor vehicle, have a gross vehicle weight in excess of 15,000 pounds, held in the decedent’s name and regularly used by the decedent or members of the decedent’s immediate family as their personal motor vehicles.
(c) All qualified tuition programs authorized by s. 529 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, including, but not limited to, the Florida Prepaid College Trust Fund advance payment contracts under s. 1009.98 and the Florida Prepaid College Trust Fund participation agreements under s. 1009.981.
(d) All benefits paid pursuant to s. 112.1915.
(3) Exempt property shall be exempt from all claims against the estate except perfected security interests thereon.
(4) Exempt property shall be in addition to protected homestead, statutory entitlements, and property passing under the decedent’s will or by intestate succession.
(5) Property specifically or demonstratively devised by the decedent’s will to any devisee shall not be included in exempt property. However, persons to whom property has been specifically or demonstratively devised and who would otherwise be entitled to it as exempt property under this section may have the court determine the property to be exempt from claims, except for perfected security interests thereon, after complying with the provisions of subsection (6).
(6) Persons entitled to exempt property shall be deemed to have waived their rights under this section unless a petition for determination of exempt property is filed by or on behalf of the persons entitled to the exempt property on or before the later of the date that is 4 months after the date of service of the notice of administration or the date that is 40 days after the date of termination of any proceeding involving the construction, admission to probate, or validity of the will or involving any other matter affecting any part of the estate subject to this section.
(7) Property determined as exempt under this section shall be excluded from the value of the estate before residuary, intestate, or pretermitted or elective shares are determined.
732.403 Family allowance.—In addition to protected homestead and statutory entitlements, if the decedent was domiciled in Florida at the time of death, the surviving spouse and the decedent’s lineal heirs the decedent was supporting or was obligated to support are entitled to a reasonable allowance in money out of the estate for their maintenance during administration. The court may order this allowance to be paid as a lump sum or in periodic installments. The allowance shall not exceed a total of $18,000. It shall be paid to the surviving spouse, if living, for the use of the spouse and dependent lineal heirs. If the surviving spouse is not living, it shall be paid to the lineal heirs or to the persons having their care and custody. If any lineal heir is not living with the surviving spouse, the allowance may be made partly to the lineal heir or guardian or other person having the heir’s care and custody and partly to the surviving spouse, as the needs of the dependent heir and the surviving spouse appear. The family allowance is not chargeable against any benefit or share otherwise passing to the surviving spouse or to the dependent lineal heirs, unless the will otherwise provides. The death of any person entitled to a family allowance terminates the right to that part of the allowance not paid. For purposes of this section, the term “lineal heir” or “lineal heirs” means lineal ascendants and lineal descendants of the decedent.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
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