With the potential to avoid probate, or at a minimum, ease the probate process, the Enhanced Life Estate Deed (also known as the Lady Bird Deed) has inherit powers permitting a property owner to retain control over real property during his lifetime. Equipped with the power to transfer real property located in Florida to others upon the owner’s death (identified as “remaindermen” within the deed), exclusive of a will and outside of the probate process, the Lady Bird Deed is an attractive and useful tool to customize even the most complicated estate planning regime. There is no doubt, evading probate coupled with a grantor’s advantage to maintain control over the real property, where the grantor can sell, lease, gift or encumber the real property during his lifetime, makes the Enhanced Life Estate Deeds nothing short of a superpower that Florida home owners should take full advantage.
Here are 10 superpowers relating to Florida’s Enhanced Life Estate Deed:
- You won’t lose your homestead protection. The Enhanced Life Estate Deed enables a Florida real estate property owner to maintain their homestead exemption (both creditor and tax) if homestead protections apply – even though the grantor holds a life estate during their lifetime.
- It’s automatic. For a proper conveyance to take place, special Florida caselaw language must be contained within the Lady Bird Deed. Once a properly executed Enhanced Life Estate Deed is executed and the life estate owner dies, the transfer to the named remaindermen is automatic rendering a stress-free process for the named beneficiaries.
- It’s so easy! The Florida real property will transfer over to the named individual (remainderman) identified in the deed upon the death of the grantor without the need to prepare an additional deed to complete the transfer. Moreover, it is an easy transfer process. The beneficiary of the property may have to record the death certificate and file an affidavit with the appropriate county to affirm ownership but there is no need to prepare additional formal legal documents to finalize the transfer.
- You’re allowed to change your mind. Equipped with the power to control, the Lady Bird Deed is so much more than just a life estate. It enables the owner to live in the property for their entire life but also reserves more than just that option. The owner, during his lifetime, reserves the right to sell, lease, gift, and encumber the property without remaindermen’s consent or notice. If the Florida homeowner is hit with cold feet, Florida’s Enhanced Life Estate Deed enables the current owner control over the property where the grantor can simply execute another deed to better suit his altered wishes.
- It’s cost effective. The Enhanced Life Estate Deed can be used as an inexpensive estate plan for people whose Florida residence is the major or only asset that may need to be transferred upon death. The Lady Bird Deed is an inexpensive way to transfer real property. Where probate can cost thousands of dollars, the Lady Bird Deed is a desirable alternative.
- The deed can serve as a will substitute. The owner may name more than one remainderman who will take over the property upon his or her death – without ever having to prepare a proper Florida will. A Lady Bird Deed may also have a provision for descendants of a remainderman of a default beneficiary who predeceases the original owner.
- Remaindermen hold creditor protections. The remaindermen receives the property only if the grantor still owns it at the time of death and since the owner can always change his or her mind prior to death, the remaindermen has no interest in the real property throughout the owner’s life. As such, the remaindermen are protected from creditors during the owner’s lifetime. Since the remaindermen really have no interest in the property until the grantor’s death, the real property is protected during the owner’s lifetime from claims by named remainderman creditors.
- Consent is not required. The remaindermen have no rights to the Florida real property whatsoever during the owner’s lifetime, which helps because the owner does not need their consent and the remainder’s creditors cannot claim any rights to the real property. This is one of the major differences between a traditional life estate (where consent is required) and an Enhanced Life Estate where the grantor maintains ownership control.
- Lady Bird Deeds can be signed remotely. In Florida, deeds must be signed before a notary and two witnesses. As of January 1, 2020, Florida remote online notarization laws permit deeds, such as the Enhanced Life Estate Deed, to be signed remotely before a notary and two witnesses utilizing video and audio online technology.
- You’ll be among the lucky few. Like Disney World, pristine beaches and homestead protection, the Enhanced Life Estate Deed is not available in many states. Florida is one of the few states that does allow this superpowered life estate to extend ownership control over real property while also avoiding probate.
The Enhanced Life Estate Deed is an incredible estate planning tool but despite its many benefits, it might not be suitable for you. If you are interested in an Enhanced Life Estate Deed or would like to learn more, contact an attorney with Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant who can evaluate your situation and advise whether you qualify as an appropriate candidate for this form of estate planning.