Lady Bird Lady Bird

Q: Isn’t there a method in which people, upon their death, can transfer title of their home to a beneficiary without the need of hiring an attorney for probate?  

From your childhood do you remember, “Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home, your house is on fire and your children are burning”?  It is from the early childlore of England wherein a Ladybird is the name of an insect called a Ladybug and as goes the childlore rhyme here in the United States, “Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away…!”

My grandmother may have just as well set fire to her home and let it burn, as she failed to transfer it into a protected title or deed that automatically transferred it to her beneficiaries upon her death. Also, her failure to pay property taxes resulted in her home being auctioned to the highest bidder on the courthouse steps. How did this happen and how did I learn of the sale? When my grandmother passed away, I was neither aware that she owned her own home nor that a property tax lien had been filed. Immediately prior to her death the tax lienor filed foreclosure to collect the property tax debt owed by my grandmother. 

Because I was deployed to Afghanistan by the army, I did not learn of her passing until 6 months following her death. I received a notice that I was the sole beneficiary of her estate and funds were deposited into the state of Florida’s unclaimed property, the funds from the sale of her home at auction.  That is when I first learned my grandmother even owned a home. For me to claim the inheritance, I had to put out yet another fire.  I was required to pay an attorney to file probate to prove I was the legal heir to her estate and obtain what was rightfully mine already.  

Isn’t there a method in which people, upon their death, can transfer title of their home to a beneficiary without the need of hiring an attorney for probate?  

A: There is.  The method was influenced by another ladybird, Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife.  It is known as a “Lady Bird Deed” or “Enhanced Life Estate Deed” and is available in only 5 states of which Florida is one.

Benefits of a Lady Bird or Enhanced Life Estate Deed are that the deed retains homestead protection; it can serve as a “Last Will” substitute and name one or more beneficiaries; it immediately transfers upon death of the owner to beneficiaries named on the deed; consent of beneficiaries named is not required to change the deed; no probate is required.

Before you put your loved ones or beneficiaries through a firestorm trying to discover what you owned following your death or impacting and exposing them to sibling disputes, the high cost of probate, visit with an estate planning lawyer today to discuss your best estate planning options and if necessary, take a beneficiary(s) with you if you need help financially.  

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Written by Kristen Jackson

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