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Has Your Will Been Affected by Your Changing Family?


Far too many citizens across the U.S. never take the time to build any kind of estate plan whatsoever. Sitting down to really plan for a future where you are not present is not high on the list of pleasant activities to fill a sunny afternoon.

Because many balk at the process of building an estate plan to begin with, it is even more understandable that once an estate plan IS put into place, many people never touch the documents again. While understandable, this is actually quite problematic under many circumstances. This article will discuss what can happen if you never update your will. Particularly, we will discuss how changes to your family that take place after a will is signed can affect the enforcement of an older will that has not been revised in years.

Any Florida estate planning lawyer will tell you that making a will is usually not a one-shot deal. As you experience changes in your life, you will want to review and possibly revise a will that you executed several years ago. But what happens if you never update your will? More precisely, how can subsequent changes to your family affect the enforcement of an older will that is never revised?

Pretermitted Spouses Under Florida Law

Our lives are ongoing and subject to change – up to our dying day. When a testator creates a last will and testament, they cannot foresee what people might come into their life. This is why, with any major family changes, it is wise to review and make any revisions to your will or estate that you deem appropriate. This is the best way to ensure that you maintain maximum control over the direction of your estate after you pass away.

For example, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Say that a widower named Jim creates a will in 2020. Two years later Jim marries his second wife, Jill. Four years after they are wed, Jim dies unexpectedly. When Jim’s family begins processing his estate, it comes to light that Jim has not revised the original will that he signed in 2020. Now, when that will was written Jim was not married, and so his new wife was not included as an heir of the estate. Does this mean that the new wife is not entitled to anything, since she was not included in the will?

Florida Law

The answer, from a 10,000  foot level, is “no,” the new wife will not be totally excluded from the estate because Florida law has developed to account for certain situations where wives (or children) are “Pretermitted” or omitted, from a last will and testament.

Generally speaking, if a testator enters into a marriage after they have already signed a last will and testament, and the new spouse outlives the testator, then that spouse will be entitled to the same share of their late spouse’s estate that they would have received if the testator had died “intestate” – aka, without a will.


This pretermitted spouse rule of inheritance will not apply in a few different scenarios. One thing to bear in mind is that it will not apply in scenarios where pre-nuptial agreements or post-nuptial agreements waive the surviving spouse’s rights to inherit under the estate.

The biggest, most important exception to this section of the law (for our purposes), is that if a will was revised AFTER a marriage took place and that new spouse is still excluded from the will – then the exclusion appears to be intentional, and you should expect that the pretermitted spouse rule of inheritance would not apply.

Contact Suncoast Civil Law

If you need help crafting or revising your estate plan – or you are involved in a legal dispute over an estate – it is wise to consult with an experienced Sarasota wills and probate lawyer attorney. Contact Suncoast Civil Law to discuss your own case today.