My father just passed away on 2/24/2010 with a Will in tact. After the funeral, my Stepmother said that "she's keeping everything." My Father's Estate is estimated at approximately 5-6 million dollars. Since the Will has been in place for a longtime and my Father had keen mental capacity up to his death, how can she think that she will keep everything? Is there something I should be doing to protect my inheritance? I live in Colorado & my parents in Florida.
Estate Planning Attorney
I'm sorry about the loss of your father. Your stepmother does not have the ability to decide who will receive your father's estate. That depends on four factors: property ownership, beneficiary designations, his will, and state law.
Anything that was owned as joint tenants with your stepmother will automatically belong to her upon your father's death (real estate, bank accounts, etc.). For life insurance, retirement plans and often bank or investment accounts, your father had the option to choose a beneficiary. For anything that did not pass through joint ownership or beneficiary designation, his will would determine who receives his assets. However, here's where state law comes in. In most states a spouse has a right to a certain portion of the total marital estate upon the death of the other spouse. Depending on FL state law (I am licensed only in CO) your stepmother may have a right to elect a certain percentage of the estate.
Bottom line, you need to chat with a probate attorney in FL to ensure that your rights are protected and your stepmother doesn't get too far with her plan to simply keep everything.
All the best,
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