Harrell v. Snyder, 2005 WL 2899461 (Fla. 5th DCA Nov. 4, 2005) In this case, the decedent had divorced his wife several years before his death, but never got around to changing his will. So when he died, his ex-wife became personal representative of his estate under the terms of his last will (although she was deemed to have predeceased him for purposes of the will’s dispositive provisions). The decedent was not survived by any minor children and had not remarried prior to death, so his homestead property was freely devisable . . . or was it? Brevard County Judge Kerry I. Evander ruled that the personal representative had the authority to both take control of the freely-devisable homestead property and to sell it. The Fifth DCA disagreed, holding as follows:
- Under 2005->Ch0733->Section%20608#0733.608″>F.S. § 733.608(2), a trial court MAY authorize a personal representative to take possession of homestead property to preserve it for the heirs.
- This same statute does NOT grant to a personal representative the power to sell such property.
Bottom line, in the absence of specific instructions authorizing the personal representative to sell freely-devisable homestead property, such property passes to the residuary beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate. In an opinion I wrote about here, the Florida Supreme Court provided the following directive regarding the sale of freely-devisable homestead property:
We therefore . . . hold that where a decedent is not survived by a spouse or minor children, the decedent’s homestead property passes to the residuary devisees, not the general devisees, unless there is a specific testamentary disposition ordering the property to be sold and the proceeds made a part of the general estate.