In Florida probate, certain types of property are exempt and will be received by the surviving spouse, if there is one, and if there is no spouse, then by the decedent’s children. However, steps must be taken to protect entitlement to exempt property.
If a decedent was domiciled in Florida at the time of his or her death, the surviving spouse, or, if there is no surviving spouse, the children of the decedent has the right to a share of the estate of the decedent which is designated “exempt property.” Exempt property consists of: (1) 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 ; (2) two motor vehicles which do not 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 ; and (3) all qualified tuition programs including 529 plans and Florida Prepaid College accounts. These assets are exempt from all claims against the estate except for secured claims such as loans on the vehicles. In order to claim exempt property, persons entitled to it must file a petition for determination of 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. If a timely petition is not filed, the entitlement to exempt property is considered waived. This is good reason to consult an experienced Florida probate lawyer.