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A beneficial estate planning document

On Behalf of | Feb 25, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Florida is a primary location with diverse communities spread throughout the state. You might be one of its many retirees or part of a young couple who is just starting out in their married life. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur or a member of one of many immigrant cultures who have settled here. In any case, if you’re 18 or older, you can execute the estate planning process, and should, if you want to protect your assets, as well as ensure the carrying out of your wishes if you become incapacitated. 

Most people are familiar with basic estate planning documents, such as a last will and testament or a revocable trust. There’s a lesser-known document available to Florida estate owners known as an “Enhanced Life Estate Deed,” also called a “Lady Bird Deed.” This document has a specific purpose, which is to transfer ownership of real estate without it passing through probate. The document takes effect when the benefactor dies.  

Isn’t this estate planning document a Transfer on Death Deed by another name? 

Another estate planning document, known as a Transfer on Death Deed (TODD), is like an Enhanced Life Estate Deed in several ways. In Florida, however, estate laws prohibit the transfer of real estate through a TODD. If you want to leave your house or land that you own to someone when you die, you can use a Lady Bird Deed but not a TODD. 

When you sign a Lady Bird Deed, you retain ownership of the real estate in question during your lifetime. You can sell it, rent it, renovate it, etc., without the consent of the beneficiary you have listed in the deed. Upon your death, ownership automatically transfers to the beneficiary.  

Changing a Lady Bird Deed 

With a last will and testament or a revocable trust, you can make changes to the document at any time. With a Lady Bird Deed, if you want to add a beneficiary or remove one, etc., you must execute an entirely new document and sign it in accordance with Florida estate laws. Such documents often spark family discord, especially if someone expects to find their name listed as beneficiary, only to discover that it’s not there. A family member can challenge the validity of a Lady Bird Deed. 

The estate planning process is highly customizable. If you’re planning your estate in Florida, you can choose which documents to include and which to omit. The documents that fit your needs and goals may be different than another estate owner’s plan. If you’re unsure whether a Lady Bird Deed is the way to go, you can ask someone who is well-versed in Florida estate laws to review your plan.