The Family Allowance Protects Children Against Having Their Lives Put on Hold by Lengthy Probate Disputes
In family law, you often hear that children are the innocent victims of divorce battles. It is incredibly stressful for children to know that their parents are in court, arguing about whether the children will have to move out of their current home and whether or not they are allowed to spend Christmas with their soon-to-be-step-grandparents. As their parents bicker over which expenses are truly necessary, the children just hope to still have a roof over their heads this time next month. Family courts institute measures such as temporary parenting plans and temporary child support orders to ensure that the children’s needs are met even while the parents’ divorce case is still going on. Just as bad is when children’s financial support gets put on hold because family members are fighting in probate court about the estate of a deceased parent of the children. Yes, the children will receive an inheritance when the estate settles, and yes, they have a legal guardian who provides them emotional support, but they do have a legal right to financial support from their deceased parent’s estate even before the estate settles. If you are the personal representative of the estate of a person whose minor children are entitled to a family allowance, contact a Central Florida probate lawyer.
The Family Allowance in Florida Probate Law
The last stage of probate is settling the estate. At this stage, the estate closes, meaning that it ceases to exist as a legal entity, and whatever assets remain in the estate are distributed to the heirs. (It is a little bit like how closing a bank account involves taking all the money out of it.) In our debt-ridden age, people often worry about it taking a long time for an estate to settle, because most people live paycheck to paycheck and an inheritance from a relative is their best chance at quickly establishing a financial cushion. In most cases, it takes less than a year to settle an estate, but if there is a dispute, it can take much longer.
The personal representative of the estate is responsible for making financial transactions on behalf of the estate, such as paying its debts and taxes or selling its assets to fulfill the decedent’s financial obligations. If the decedent has minor children, the estate must pay them a monthly sum known as the family allowance. The amount is calculated in proportion to the value of the estate, but it cannot exceed $18,000 per child per month.
The Family Allowance Can Solve Problems or Exacerbate Them
Imagine that, before his death, Bob used to pay child support for his three teenaged children. When he died in his 50s, a dispute ensued over his estate. Bob’s wife, whom he dated for years but married only after being diagnosed with cancer, is the personal representative, but his mother is alleging undue influence because Bob changed his will after marrying his wife. It could take years for the estate to settle, but the personal representative still has the responsibility to issue a check to Bob’s children each month from the estate. The children, who lived with their mother and stepfather for most of the year even when Bob was alive, would probably be able to survive if they didn’t get the money until the estate settled, but they are still entitled to receive it without delay.
Of course, conflicts sometimes arise over the family allowance. For example, a dispute over the estate of Amado Valdes related to the family allowance. His youngest child was a minor at the time of Valdes’ death. The personal representative accused Valdes’ widow, the child’s mother, of intentionally prolonging the probate process with frivolous motions in order to continue receiving the family allowance.
Contact an Attorney Today for Help
Being the personal representative of an estate of a person who died young is an emotionally stressful task, but a Tampa probate lawyer can help you ensure that the decedent’s minor children receive their family allowance. Contact David Toback for help with your case.