widow's benefits?

yborgalApril 23, 2004

I'm asking on behalf of an older female friend who has been married just 4 months. Her husband's will states that all of his money be left to his children and grandchildren. He recently removed his son's name from his bank accounts and added his new wife's name as a co-signer. He will not change his will at all to make her a beneficiary and the home in which they are living will be left to his son. She asked me if she was entitled to anything if he should die first. He's 88 and she's 79. I have no legal expertise and she can't go to an attorney. Does anyone have any idea what Florida laws provide for a window?

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There's no way this question can be or should be answered on a forum. She needs to talk to an attorney in Florida. Unless a Florida attorney cares to comment here.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2004 at 11:33AM
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If she can't see an attorney because of the expense, I would suggest contacting a legal aid agency in FL. They provide free or low-cost services. Below is a link to these agencies in each FL county.

Here is a link that might be useful: FL Legal Aid

    Bookmark   May 11, 2004 at 6:28PM
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I agree that your friend needs legal counsel, but perhaps #16 in this link will give her some assurance.

Here is a link that might be useful: fl probate info

    Bookmark   May 30, 2004 at 12:58PM
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Ditto the above.

However, she might want to contact her local social security office and visit with them. At www.ssa.gov there is information about death benefits but mostly it directs the person to call the office when the situation is complex.

Bless you for helping your friend.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 6:42PM
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Ditto about the attorney, but if the home is in your's and his name with right of survivorship, I don't see how it can be taken from you. especially if the name change was dated after the will and he was in sound mind.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2004 at 7:38PM
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It varies by state, but a widow (or widower) generally has a right to a certain portion of a spouse's estate, regardless of the will.

If the home is held in both their names, he can't cut her out of her share, because his will only affects his share in the house.

Why can't she see an attorney? She'll only need a half hour of time, if that, and the answers will be straightforward for an attorney who specializes in wills and trusts.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 2:22AM
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I just looked up Florida's elective share statute (for widow's benefits), and it provides that the surviving spouse may elect to take 30% of assets in the probate estate.

Most significantly, real estate is not part of the probate estate (it passes to the new owner upon the death of the prior owner, although it may take some time before the new owner can sellit), so the elective share does not include a 30% of the house. So if your friend is not on the deed, she will not get anything from the house.

Here is a link that might be useful: Florida elective share law

    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 2:30AM
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Every attorney I have been to will see you the first time for free. The last attorney I talked to was an estate attorney and he very good. She really needs to visit with an estate attorney. It's hard to believe they can move a widow out of a home she is living in. It can't be done in Kansas or Ark. In both of those states the widows get half of the estate. We can live in our homes until we die.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 6:22PM
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Quite a few Senior Citizens groups or clubs will have a lawyer that donates some free time to advising the elderly at no charge. If she is an active church member, perhaps there is someone in the congregation that would be able to help her. Her minister would be the one to ask for her.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 8:57PM
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He removed her name from the checking account. He suspected she was planning on leaving him and he hid the money that was in the joint accounts.

Money in the savings account has been transferred elsewhere and she doesn't know where.

Her name is not on the deed to the home.

Her health has deteriorated so she can no longer work. She was a housekeeper.

This is her 2nd marriage; his 3rd. She is a widow and both of his wives also died. (Maybe she should be real careful.)

She cannot get help from her church. Her husband is the minister.

He is educated; she is not.

And he was overheard telling someone that the thing to do would be to marry an unattractive uneducated person so she'd be grateful and not demanding.

She has nowhere to go. She gave up her place to marry and move in with him.

I feel so sorry for her. She thought he was a knight in shining armor and he's been an emotional abuser instead.

If she does divorce him now, she will get nothing. Normally, she would have been entitled to 1/2 of the money, but since it's been transferred to his son's accounts there's none there that she can claim as half hers.

Lawyers have given her very little hope regarding her claim of 1/2 the accumulated assets.

I feel so sorry for this fine lady.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 8:37PM
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You mention that these two have only been married for 4 months. Did they live together prior to the marriage, for say a commonlaw marriage situation? If not, I find it very hard to imagine she would be entitled to anything, widow or not since they have only been married for such a short period of time.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 5:58AM
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Yeah, I gotta say if I was older, had money, was married and suspected my husband of only 4 months was thinking of leaving me, I would be moving my money over to my kids asap too. I don't know about legally, but morally, I can't see why (bad health or not) she thinks she should get much (if any) of his money upon his death. That money belongs to his kids, not her, IMHO. Granted, there may have been some accumulated money, but in 4 months, I doubt it would pay a lawyer. Have her get out if he's so abusive, otherwise, I really don't see how she can complain about the money aspect unless the money he gave away was hers. If I married an older man, I would assume his acuumulated wealth would go to his children, not me and I would set my money up to go to my children, not him; what are these woman thinking?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 9:35AM
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I've never known why otherwise intelligent people do this. Especially for marriages after the first and especially for older people with accumulated assets all of this should have been agreed upon before the marriage took place. Really basic.

This 79-year-old marrying an 88-year old would be an excellent example.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 1:43PM
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I'm sorry about the typo. I should have said 4 years rather than 4 months.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 2:57PM
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Decisions about money and property were made before they married in January,2000.

However, he didn't do what he said he'd do which was to agree to let her stay in the home if he died first. The agreement was that as long as she remained unmarried she could live in the home. She was to have received $8,000 at the time of his death if she needed to get into a rental apartment or needed repairs to her car or to the home. She also had check writing priviledges should he become incapacitated and not be able to pay bills.

We're not talking a great fortune here. His home is worth, maybe, $85,000. He originally had $65,000 in the bank and about $6000 of that was hers.

She wanted him to move into her home, but he talked her into selling her home instead. She sold her small home and got a pittance from the sale. Knowing she'd never be able to buy again, the above agreements were made so she could transition into other living arrangements and have a roof over her head.

Well,without telling her, he changed his will, and changed his checking and savings accounts. She only found out by accident and now doesn't trust him. I don't blame her.

Since the home sale money was in the joint account it's rightfully hers and he's stolen it.

I've done some checking and found he did the same thing to his previous wives and they were miserable and unhappy and shackled to this miser till they died.

As a representative of his church he certainly seems to be lacking in Christian qualities.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 3:18PM
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Mona - Can you do a little legwork and find her an elder (abuse) attorney? Surely she can get at least a first time consultation for gratis.

Were any of these previous "agreements" in writing? If so, someone should hold them for her and make copies. What a snake in the grass.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 7:35PM
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Her husband is the minister...gee, as you say, not very Christian, I wouldn't want to attend that church.

This is a terrible situation, another Cautionary Tale, no doubt.

Can you complain about him to higher authorities in the Church ?

Is she entitled to a pension from the state ?


    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 7:36PM
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Have someone call the Division of Aging and file a complaint on her behalf. They will send an investigator to visit with her and him as well. I don't think the husband really wants the government involved. Call the local newspaper and expose him - newspapers love 'real-life' people stories!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 10:07PM
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Besides needing a good eldercare attorney, she needs a forensic accountant. Money in bank accounts leaves a paper or electronic trail. A forensic accountant is like a 'money detective'--he can track down the funds, where they've been, where they've gone. A forensic accountant also has some acquaintance with the laws regarding money--so he is qualified to offer an expert opinion in court, if it comes to that.

Unfortunately, I know all this from firsthand experience (not because of a dishonest spouse, though). Our forensic accountant was amazing, and while he did charge us for his report, he put in a lot of pro bono hours on the case we were fighting at the time, because he knew we were fighting a huge miscarriage of justice.

If at all possible, see if you can hook your friend up with a good lawyer, and an excellant forensic accountant who has good standing in court. She might then be able to claim part of the marital property.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 11:04PM
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From what I've read so far, he's got $6,000.00 of hers in his pocket. She knows he's got it. She doesn't need an accountant to find it because even if she knows the exact account its in it will still be under his control and she won't be able to get it back anyway. If she wants to claim it, she'll have to do so during the divorce because this SOB will never yield. Her side of the divorce will be a lot more than 6 G's.

When he dies, she'll be able to claim a widow's portion -- usually not less than 1/3. Short of that, she'll have to file for divorce and take her chances or live with it.

Sounds to me like she didn't bring much with her. Unless she's got something in writing as evidence of the the supposed agreement between them, she's not going be taken care of as well as she used to have in mind.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 11:26PM
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Asolo--I think you missed the point of what I was suggesting. A forensic accountant CAN be the detective who tracks down money and how it got where it currently is--yes. But the reason I think she needs one is a little more complicated. He's also versed in the laws regarding money, contracts, etc--and is allowed by the courts to offer an EXPERT opinion. She's going to need someone like that in her corner, someone with expert status in the courts, to declare that she has a legal right to this money, based on the facts he's uncovered. It goes far further than simply tracking down where the money is at the moment.

Believe me--a good forensic accountant is a powerful weapon to have on your side in a court battle over money. And based on my experiences with ours, I do believe that one would be very helpful in this case.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 10:41AM
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azzalea -- I don't doubt it, nor do I dispute it. I think we're sort of flying by each other's points.

My point is that I strongly suspect the cost of accomplishing the task could well be more than the amount recovered based on OP's suggestion of the amount in question. And in the process of moving forward, she'll probably precipitate a divorce which will cost her more money that she doesn't have. Legally, she will likely prevail but she will have to hire it done and economically she'll likely be worse off than she is now. And after she gets her judgement, she'll still have to collect it which will likely entail another round of effort and expense. He's got her and he knows it. Sad situation.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 11:08AM
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Asolo, you're right.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 4:14PM
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I am an attorney, and the friend has only been married 4 years. If I was only married four years I certainly wouldn't be putting anything in a new spouse's name, especially one that seems to want it all. Married such a short time, what he has is all his separate property in every state. I am assuming that that he doesn't make much money as a minister. Florida is not a community property state, and even if it was she is not entitled to his house or savings.
Whatever he has was most likely earned by him and maybe his previous wife. Why shouldn't he be leaving this to his son?
And Joanne--you are confusing intestate (without a will) with what happens with a will. This guy has a will, its separate property he doesn't have to leave her anything. He is not a young man who earned his money working while married for a long time. Florida is a retirement state--they aren't generous to short term wives when the husband's money is mostly his savings.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 11:35PM
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My original post was misleading and confusing. I've attempted to correct the facts.

Marge, this lady doesn't want it all. She just expects him to hold up his end of the bargain regarding financial arrangements they had discussed and come to terms about before their wedding.

Did you not read my posts about what he had promised her?

He convinced her to sell her home with the promise that she would be left $8000 at the time of his death. $6000 is hers from her home sale, so the "windfall" is only $2000 of his.

His will stated she could remain in the home as long as she lived there, unmarried. He changed his will and the home goes directly to his son.

I do believe he has every right to dispense his money as he sees fit. But it is wrong to marry someone under false pretenses as he did. Almost immediately upon saying, "I do" he ran to the lawyer and changed his will.

Then after about 2 years she read a bank statement and saw that where she originally had been a co-signer on the account her name was not there. Instead the son's name is there in place of her name. Though she had been a cosigner on the account in case of emergency she had never written a check on this account and never internded to do so unless it was indeed an emergency.
She never touched any of his money; he was just afraid that she would.

The balance is now in the low $100's. He's moved his money, as well as her $6000, to an undisclosed account. That's stealing in my book, maybe not in yours, though.

You're implying this woman is a golddigger. She's no such thing!

This is a poor, uneducated, trusting soul who believed her future spouse would tell her the truth about his intentions to look out for her well-being.

Instead she was duped.

She no longer has a home she can retreat to if the marriage fails. She does not have the money from her home sale. She will not be able to stay in this home should she be widowed. She has no money with which to establish residencey in an apartment.

Instead, she's traded her independency for the priviledge of being this man's cook, housecleaner, and caretaker...all with the knowledge that he cares little about her well-being.

Unfortunately, the law is on his side and there's nothing she can do except live out her life in a state of miserable existence and hope she dies first, just like his previous wives.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 4:28PM
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Widow's benefits are only if he is dead.
Actually I think her problem is that she let him know how miserable she was, and I was approaching the problem as a divorce or separation. If she outlives him she may be able to get some of his property under Florida's new law, and the man is 88. In a divorce she can get her $6,000 back and maybe some other minor things.
We don't know either one of them and anyone who takes the time to answer does the best with the information they have and you didn't exactly make her sound wonderful.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 5:17PM
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Just curious.....

If she doesn't have any money, how is it she was able to maintain the house she had before? Wondering how "independent" she could have been before. Something's missing.

What would happen if she just asked the guy for her $6,000.00? What kind of communication have they had to date? Who pays the bills?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 5:42PM
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She had a small home and a son and daughter were living with her. They were helping with the bills and she gets a SS check. She was working as a housekeeper at the time, but she's since had heart surgery and has developed other illnesses and is now unable to work.

She was doing fine before marriage and was paying her bills. Her children have moved to other homes and she can't buy another home now on her own and she certainly can't support herself.

Oh, one thing I forgot. Her car was an older model, but reliable transportation for her.
He got her to sell it by saying they would buy her a nicer, newer car. Guess what never happened. And she's out that $$,too.

She wanted the Reverend to move to her home so she'd still have something to call her own, just in case. Had she done this then she has 2 sisters that would have moved in with her now and together they all would have been able to make ends meet.

Marge, I'm sorry if I offended you. I realize I didn't give a clear picture of the situation in my earlier posts and I am attempting to clarify things.

And she wasn't miserable and desperate to get married. He actively pursued her for 2 years. And she was suspicious of his motives and was wary. He was very attentive during the "courting" period; full of compliments, dinners out, flowers.

I was suspicious about why an educated, well respected pillar of the community, who was getting a lot of attention from educated, financially well-off widows,was trying so hard to get this lady to marry him. Frankly, so was this lady. And so were the other ladies who couldn't get to first base with him.

He persisted; convinced her family to talk with her and finally, she agreed to wed.

I think he married her because he thought she'd be grateful and wouldn't expect much from him. He also thought that because she was uneducated that he could pull the wool over her eyes and wouldn't realize what he's done with her money.

Another woman with $$ to back her up would have left him within the first year. I know I'd have been long long by now.

He's manipulative and condescending when he speaks to her. But at church, he presents the perfect picture of respect.

What a louse!!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 10:55PM
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I never give advice to clients without getting all of the information. Otherwise, it turns into a game where they get to switch the information so you have to keep giving a different answer. (four months to four years, etc.) Joanne took the trouble to research the elective share law (nice research Joanne) and I don't know if you read it. But thats if he dies right away, and doesn't know her intentions. He knows and has already started moving things around. Its separate property so he can do that. He could deed the real estate to his son tomorrow morning, and create a problem with the elective share, especially if he lives long enough to start a divorce.
I doubt he pursued her just to get $6,000. He obviously thought she was wonderful. I wonder how long it was since his last wife died. Its clear you want us all to think he's a bad guy. Ok.
I also think she's not a typical ministers wife--most of the ones I have met (except for the recent one that shot her husband)are active in the church, cheerful and pleasant. She seems to be busy spreading gossip about him. You haven't pointed out any of her virtues so far.
If I started asking about my "widow's benefits" my husband says he would start having dinner samples analyzed.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 8:26PM
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"I doubt he pursued her just to get $6,000."

Yay, Marge. I was just getting ready to type same when I saw yours.

"If I started asking about my "widow's benefits" my husband says he would start having dinner samples analyzed."


Still think sad situation but for many more reasons than at first.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 8:33PM
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Thank you all for your kind attempts at providing answers to my questions. I seem to have given you the wrong impression of this lady.

I've known her since she began working for me in 1988 and we've become friends. She doen't gossip, but she does confide in me. No one else knows what's going on in her marriage, not even her children.

This woman is active in her church, is pleasant, warm, cheerful and liked by all who know her. But you're right,she's not your typical minister's wife. She has a heart of gold, but doesn't have any sophistication to her...not in dress, manners or appearance. Her table manners are basic and her speech is not considered "proper English". She often mispronounces words and sometimes uses the wrong choice of words when trying to explain herself. But that's her and what makes her special. But she's not a good partner for this man because they are on 2 different social levels and she doesn't fit in with his people. And he makes sure she knows this.

I'll give you an example: They and some friends saw a movie with subtitles. After the movie the group was discussing the movie and he told others in the group not to bother including her in the discussion because Lillie couldn't read well enough to have followed the sub-titles.
Nice, huh?

"Rev" didn't marry her for her paltry dowry. He married her because a Reverend in his church needs a wife to act as hostess. He had been widowed for several years and his congregation was about to oust him and search for a minister with a wife. He needed someone to tend to his house, cook his meals and tend to his needs. She was a cheap resource for all of this.

He bought himself some time when he started dated her. He sought her out because she didn't ask for much. He thought she'd be flattered by his attention. And he expected she wouldn't complain about anything because being a "Reverend's Wife" would be enough for her.

Lillie has no education. She worked in the fields as a child growing up. She reads at about a 4th grade level and though she has a heart of pure gold her exterior is rusty.

In conversation one day a couple of years ago she confided in me. She wondered what would become of her if anything should happen to her husband because she was not provided for in his will.

That conversation led me here. In my haste to post, my information came across as confusing and misleading.
I have not changed my story as part of a game. I simply said the wrong thing and I've attempted to correct the info.

I'm even getting the feeling that at least one person thinks I'm a troll OR that this is my story in disguise.

You're wrong on both counts.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 9:37PM
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What would have happened to her otherwise? Let's assume he is, indeed, a total SOB. Can't very well be "total" because somebody is still paying the bills.

What, exactly, did this woman bring to the table other than her personal wonderfulness? Not attacking her or him or you. Just trying to come to some perspective of the overall situation. Still don't know who's paying today's bills except, according to your description, she can't be because she doesn't have any money. What's the overall deal as they're living today?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 10:44PM
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I can understand your wondering about the finances. I just didn't feel I needed to go into details, but I will.

Really, not too many bills for that household.

He retired from the RR and has a pension. He gets a SS check and a stipend from the church.

The house is paid for so he only has property taxes( about $600 yearly) and home insurance to pay.
He has Medicare and a supplemental policy; so does she.
They split the cost of groceries and basic utilities as well.
There are her medical co-pays and medicines she has to pay for.
He pays for car insurance and gasoline.
I guess that's about it.

Living at her home, her children paid the small mortgage, property taxes and groceries. Utilities charges were split. So she had only gasoline for the car and her car insurance she was responsible for. And if she still had her home this arrangement would still be working for her.

She gets a small SS check and I still pay her as though she were working one day a week in my home. So she's not penniless and is paying her share.

But, the question still arises about where she'll live if he dies before she does.

If she could be assured of getting at least her $6000 she could get into a federally subsidized apt and have a little nest egg for emergencies.

It just doesn't look as though that's going to happen.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 11:14PM
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I think all this man wanted was a free maid to do the house work. She should be paid at least for the hours she worked in the house and as far as I know a widow has the right to the house were she was living.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:49AM
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Yo siegel...did you notice this is almost four years old?

".....as far as I know a widow has the right to the house were she was living."

You don't know far enough. There is no such "right".

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 10:31AM
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