When people die, their wills may fail to account for the needs of all their remaining relatives. Those who remarry or start new families, for instance, might not include their old families in new will documents. In such cases, Florida state law mandates that if these survivors were the spouses or children of the deceased, they should receive some assets during the administration of a probate estate.

According to the Florida Bar, those who feel their relationship to the deceased entitles them to estate assets can request a portion known as an elective share. Elective shares generally amount to 30 percent of the assets left behind by the deceased, and holdings that were not originally subject to probate administration also counts for the purposes of this calculation.

Spouses can also relinquish their rights to elective shares and other state-granted allowances. Such waivers may be included in premarital or separation agreements. In cases where these special rights have not been waived, spouses and children may not even have to wait for the probate administration of an estate to receive assets. Family allowances, which make funds available before administration, can be requested by those who feel that it is necessary. Finally, survivors can also be granted rights to properties that are exempt from collection by creditors.

Probate estate administration can be a complex procedure depending on the relationships of the deceased person and the way their wills were structured. Survivors could make competing claims for the same assets or attempt to contest the way properties are disbursed. In some cases, probate litigation is necessary to resolve these disputes. An attorney who is familiar with these processes may be able to help those involved in disputes.

Luis E. Barreto