In the field of estate and will planning, we sometimes see cases in which the heirs or the surviving spouse become embroiled in a battle over the family estate. Not all family members are close, and at times the disputes over the estate administration can become quite heated. This is why laws exist in Florida to protect a family's assets in the event of a will contest.
In most cases, properly executed estate planning goes smoothly. The court's main duties would be to interpret the will, designate an estate administrator if needed, and ensure the fair distribution of assets to the heirs as outlined in the estate plan. Sometimes, however, surviving family members will have disagreements regarding the will. In that case, a probate judge will have the additional responsibility of making decisions to settle the dispute.
When it comes to estate planning, many people in Florida -- perhaps especially those whose parents are recently deceased -- might believe that the law requires their parents to divide any inheritance equally between siblings. However, that is not the case. In many cases it is perfectly legal to leave an estate unequally divided among beneficiaries, although it can sometimes lead to disgruntled family members and contested wills.
While family members commonly receive inheritances from parents or grandparents, fewer Florida residents have likely received a significant inheritance from a long-lost relative. A California woman was likely very surprised to learn of the inheritance she would receive from her cousin. This woman was reportedly the "only living heir" of her first cousin who apparently collected a significant amount of wealth throughout his life.