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Florida heirs can sometimes challenge marriages in probate

Prior to 2010, people who were heirs in Florida had no real legal means to challenge the validity of a marriage after the death of the testator-spouse. Because, at common law, heirs did not have standing to object to the marriage in probate court, people who felt that the marriage had been instigated by fraud, or under duress, had no recourse if they were disinherited, or received less of the estate than they believed they should.

Due to this, The Florida Legislature passed a law in 2010 that allowed any interested party to challenge a marriage's validity in several different ways, as long as the marriage is material to the proceeding. Recently, for example, a Florida lawyer was disbarred after a court found that he helped his girlfriend to defraud a 71-year-old man by marrying him and getting him to place her on the deed to his house and as a joint holder of his bank account. The court invalidated the marriage after the older man died, and ordered that everything taken from him be returned to his estate.

The one exception to this rule is if the surviving spouse's name is specifically mentioned in the will or trust documents. As can be seen, it is important that individuals going through the estate planning process need to be up-to-date on the proper way to legally protect their wishes. Further, people who stand to inherit should ensure that their rights are protected while the estate is distributing assets. While probate is not usually a pleasant experience, it can be made less painful if everyone involved is aware of what can and cannot be legally challenged.

Source: wealthmanagement.com, ""I Do - And Yes, He Does, Too"," Josh T. Brooks and Jena L. Levin, Aug. 27, 2013