Does Spousal Life Estate Supersede a Will?

Question:

Does a life estate automatically granted for a spouse? If so does this supersede a will? ex. My mother in law married a man and past a year later but there is a will leaving all tangible property to the surviving kids to include the property and trailer. Do we have a right to assume ownership and take possession of the property or does he have an unrecorded right of life estate?

There was no paperwork stating that a life estate was granted only a will leaving all personal properties to the surviving children. the lawyers told us that because she married this guy he was entitled to a life estate through marriage. His elective share has already been revoked due to the depreciation of assests by holding yard sales and selling off personal property that was guaranteed through will. This all took place in Lake county Florida.

Answer:
Hi I do believe he has a right to the life estate -- but of course, you should rely on the opinion of your florida attorney (who I think said the same thing). I'm assuming the death happened before October 2010 -- but at that time the law was changed to allow a spouse with a life estate to elect to take a 1/2 ownership interest in the property instead. If you like that idea better you could see if he'd to that.

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--by Beth Heikkinen
Marquette, Michigan
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