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Do I need an attorney?

Fort Lauderdale, FL |

My stepfather passed away in 2007. He had a will that has been probated. I have a certified copy. The will states that my mother, his widow, be given a "Life Estate" regarding his house in Fort Lauderdale, FL. My mother passed away last May, 2012. Stated in the will, I am to receive $10,000 from the sale of his house. The remainder of the proceeds from the sale of his house are to be divided among his three children. The house is just now being put on the market to be sold. My stepfathers children and I are estranged. I have no contact with them, nor do I wish to have.
My question is, how do I guarantee that I receive my $10,000 when the house is sold?

Attorney Answers 6


  1. Based on your facts, its does not sound like your mother had any interest in the house to give to you at her death. Did she have some ownership in the house other than the life estate?

    The general advice above does not constitute an attorney-client relationship: you haven't hired me or my firm or given me confidential information by posting on this public forum, and my answer on this public forum does not constitute attorney-client advice. IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: In order to comply with requirements imposed by the Internal Revenue Service, we inform you that any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. While I am licensed to practice in New York and California, I do not actively practice in New York. Regardless, nothing said should be deemed an opinion of law of any state. All readers need to do their own research or pay an attorney for a legal opinion if one is necessary or desired.


  2. Yes, you need an attorney. He or she can represent your interests and make sure that you get the money once the house is sold. Good luck to you.

    This information is presented as a public service. It should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor considered to be the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. I am licensed in Connecticut and New York and my answers are based upon the law in those jurisdictions. My answer to any specific question would likely be different if I were to review a client's file and have the opportunity to interview the client. Accordingly, I strongly urge you to retain an attorney in your jurisdiction with respect to any legal matter.


  3. The way I read the question, the $10,000 is coming to you from your stepfather's estate, not your mother's. Is that correct? Your mother did not have any interest in the house other than a life estate, so she could not direct that any money would come to your from the sale. If in fact you have an interest in the proceeds through your stepfather's Will, I suggest that you contact his executor and inquire about the status of the house. If you are uncomfortable doing that, or you feel you are not being informed adequately, you can certainly hire a lawyer, but $10,000 doesn't justify a big legal bill.

    Any opinions stated in response to Avvo questions are based upon the facts stated in the question. Responses to Avvo questions are for general information purposes only, and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice.


  4. Yes. You need legal advise and you do have a problem.. As your stepfather was married at the time of his death, his homestead property (if the property was in his name alone) was not devisable by will pursuant to Florida Law. Therefore, your mother should have recieved a life estate and the remainder would be vested in his lineal heirs per stirpes. The only way this disposition could be avoided (again, if the homestead was solely in his name) is if your mother had a prenuptial agreement of if his children agree.

    I don't know who the PR was of your step-father's estate, if there was a petition to determine homestead filed in your step father's estate, or if there was an order on the petition. Further, in the legal realm, $10,000.00 is not a great deal of money and your putative interest may not be able to be successfully protected. However, this area of the law is complex and you should retain counsel if you want to attempt to protect your interest. Your fact pattern raises more questions that would need to be answered in order to give correct advice and it may be too late. Please see an attorney well versed in Probate law as soon as practicable.


  5. Yes, you need an attorney to review your stepfather's Will and ALL of the facts of this situation. This is even more important in light of Attorney Wintter's observations. The lawyer can also provide a "buffer" between you and the decedent's children, so you do not need to deal with them, at all. That can make a huge difference in cases like this.

    There are a lot of factors at play in cases like this, and there is probably no way to guarantee that you will receive $10k. Your best chance at doing so lies in retaining a skilled probate attorney to assist you.

    James Frederick

    ***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!

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