Many Florida property owners consider their real homes to be elsewhere. “Snowbirds” have long traveled from points north to Florida for the winter months. Other people have vacation homes here where they spend part of their summers and other vacation time.
When a Florida property owner dies, if their primary place of residence was outside of the state, their estate may need to go through ancillary probate.
That process can be particularly expensive in Florida. Under the state’s probate laws, a personal representative of an estate must have an attorney (unless they’re the “sole interested person”). Further, the law provides that attorneys can charge at least 3% of the Florida property’s value. That can add thousands of dollars to estate administration fees.
Property title options
If you own property in Florida but haven’t made the state your primary residence, there are estate planning strategies you can use to avoid putting your family through the trouble and expense of ancillary probate. Some of the most common avoid titling it in one of several ways:
- Place the property in a revocable living trust and title it in the trust’s name
- Title the property with another owner as joint tenants with right of survivorship
- Use an Enhanced Life Estate Deed
The last one (also known as a Lady Bird Deed) lists the owner as the “life tenant” and includes the designated beneficiaries who will receive the property upon the owner’s death without the property having to go through probate.
An experienced Florida estate planning attorney can help you develop an estate plan that will facilitate the settlement of your estate for your loved ones and help minimize the amount of time and money they will have to spend dealing with a Florida probate court.