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Using Enhanced Life Estate Deeds to Avoid Florida Probate


Probate is not impossible to navigate, and utilizing experienced probate litigation attorneys can certainly help the process run more smoothly. However, there are several estate planning tools that you might be able to utilize that will greatly reduce the need to process key assets through probate. One such tool is creating an “enhanced life estate” deed (also known as a lady-bird deed)

This article is aimed at giving a bas-line knowledge of the lady-bird deed so you can begin to consider if this might be a valuable addition to your estate-plan.

Why Consider an Enhanced Life Estate Deed?

Probate can be complicated. It is a common goal by those building estate plans in Florida to avoid probate where possible. One way to try and avoid Florida probate with your real property assets is to utilize an enhanced life estate deed. To really understand how an enhanced life estate deed works, first consider other alternative options available.

One popular solution to avoiding probate with real property is to create a revocable living trust. Once the trust is completed you can deed your property into the trust. This option allows you to retain control over the property in the trust during the course of your life and will allow the property to avoid probate after your death.

Another (largely inadvisable) option is to add joint owners to your property, which would result in the property passing to the joint owner upon your death. However, this is a precarious option. It is always wise to consult with a seasoned legal advisor prior to building an estate plan.

Life estate deeds involve an irrevocable transfer of property to “remaindermen”  – aka remainder beneficiaries. This transfer is done with a reservation – the person transferring the property retains the right to use the property for the remainder of their lifetime. This option helps the property to avoid probate while retaining your right to enjoy the property during your lifetime and the rights of your beneficiaries after your death. The thing to be wary of with this option is that the transfer is irrevocable. This means that this option is not very flexible, and should you change your mind later or wish to sell the property you will not be the sole owner.

Enhanced Life Estate Deed

The enhanced life estate deed is similar to the life estate deed, with the exception that the enhanced life estate deed allows the grantor to change their mind. After enacting an enhanced life estate deed the grantor can change their mind, sell the property, mortgage it, etc., for the remainder of their life. The property rights do not vest to the grantee until the grantor’s death. This guarantees ownership rights to the grantor for the remainder of their lifetime.

Are There Drawbacks?

Like any estate planning tool, there are both benefits and drawbacks to this option. One drawback to the enhanced life estate deed is a certain lack of flexibility. For example, if a grantee dies before the grantor, the enhanced life deed does not control what would happen after that death. Meaning that the grantee’s interest would be distributed via probate. This makes the enhanced life estate deed less flexible than a revocable living trust.

Contact Suncoast Civil Law

Whether you find yourself in the midst of probate litigation, or you simply want to discuss your own estate planning options, the experienced Sarasota wills & probate lawyers at Suncoast Civil law can help you understand your options and best steps moving forward. Contact our office today to begin discussing your case.