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If I sign a lease for 12 months and die in month 7 from an unexpected car crash, is my estate responsible for closing out my residential lease in the manner defined by the contract (advance notice of 3 months)? Assume I am single.

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No. Death does not terminate a lease (unless the lease expressly provides otherwise), so your estate would be responsible for closing it out.

A lease becomes the property of and an obligation of a decedent's probate estate upon death.

If there is money owed under the lease, ordinarily a landlord would have to make a claim in the probate estate, rather than bringing a lawsuit for money damages, and that claim would be paid to the extent that there are funds available in the probate estate once the deadline for making all claims had passed.

On the other hand, the property rights associated with the lease may be used as an asset of the estate for the duration of the lease, or until it is terminated in a manner authorized by non-probate law.

Eviction rights under a lease when someone has died are governed by Fl. Stat. 83.59(3)(d) which provide that the landlord make take possession without bringing an eviction action when all tenants are deceased and there is a default under the lease, 60 days have passed, and the landlord has received no notice of the appointment of an executor. This says:

(d) When the last remaining tenant of a dwelling unit is deceased, personal property remains on the premises, rent is unpaid, at least 60 days have elapsed following the date of death, and the landlord has not been notified in writing of the existence of a probate estate or of the name and address of a personal representative. This paragraph does not apply to a dwelling unit used in connection with a federally administered or regulated housing program, including programs under s. 202, s. 221(d)(3) and (4), s. 236, or s. 8 of the National Housing Act, as amended.

If an executor has been appointed, a landlord may evict the estate by bringing an eviction action against the executor who stands in the shoes of the tenant for this purpose. Fl. Stat. 83.59(2) and (3)(a).

  • I'm still hung up on the hypothetical use of dying in an "unexpected car crash", as if there were any other kind. – Upnorth Sep 21 '17 at 5:58
  • @Upnorth this may be related to the bizarre push to stop calling automobile accidents "accidents." – phoog Sep 21 '17 at 12:48
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    @Upnorth In general, I would think of an accident as a situation caused by negligence, rather than either being intentional or "shit happens" in which no one can be held liable. If no one can be held liable, it would often be called an "act of god" as opposed to an accident which linguistically implies that it could have been avoided but for a mistake and hence implies negligence. – ohwilleke Sep 22 '17 at 22:11
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    @Upnorth or maybe you would be better off accepting the "popular" definition of accident, an unintentional event. If nearly everyone agrees that a word means something, it's very cumbersome to go around telling everyone that you mean something else when you use it. – phoog Sep 25 '17 at 0:37
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    @Upnorth sure, if you're drafting a legal document, it's already cumbersome, and it's normal to assign idiosyncratic definitions to commonly understood words that may be at odds with their plain meanings. Otherwise, as far as I'm concerned, "accident" does not imply that no person could be held liable. – phoog Sep 25 '17 at 5:25

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