January 2, 2019
Erica Berger-Hausthor, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Family First Firm
“We can do the deed on our own,” Betty and Joe said, as they print a form from badlegalforms.com. They both sign it. Betty dies, and what can go wrong? It looked right to Betty and Joe when they signed it….
A lot can go wrong when you don’t hire an attorney to assist with deeding property. Often when things go wrong, your wishes are not achieved. Here are five of many potential problems:
1.)Incorrect Legal Descriptions. Deeds are very specific. If the legal description is not precise, the transfer of property might be invalid. Then what Betty and Joe intended, which was to transfer the property, does not happen.
2.) There are different ways to own property. You can own property by yourself in many ways. You can own property with someone else in many ways. When you own property with someone else there are ways to list that property so that it passes automatically to the other owner at death or someone you choose. There needs to be specific language in the deed to achieve the proper form of ownership. If Betty and Joe want the property to go to each other when they pass away, then they need to legally state that in the deed, or else when Betty dies, it might go to Betty’s estranged father.
3.) There may be a better option than adding someone’s name to the deed. People often think “all I own is my home so I will just add my kids to my deed.” The problem is, that now your kids also own your home. This opens up a portion of your property to their creditors, it could potentially hurt you if you need Medicaid, and a whole slew of other possibilities that you may not have known when you just added them. There are other deeds that allow property to pass to your kids without having them go to probate court when you pass away and without adding them to the deed.
4.) Florida may not let you. Florida has strict homestead laws that control who you can give your primary residence to when you die. If you are married and have children from a prior marriage, generally, your spouse has certain rights to the property when you die, even if they are not on the deed. Also, if your spouse is not on the deed, generally they are only entitled to certain rights in the property (unless your Will or Trust says otherwise) and your spouse might have to go to court to get what your Will says.
5.) If done wrong, you loved ones might have to spend time and money fixing it. Certain mistakes that are made on deeds do not automatically make the deed invalid, however, loved ones often have to go to court to fix the mistake. This is can be costly and time consuming. Often, this clashes with your goal when you created the deed, which was to make an easy, court free, process for your loved ones.
The truth is, if you are going to transfer property, talk to an Attorney. The cost of doing it right far outweighs the substantial financial cost of dealing with fixing the problem, and the time and emotional costs of not being able to fix the problem. All of this can result in your plans not being followed.
We are glad to listen to your wishes and assist you with any questions regarding your property. Contact our office at 407-574-8125 to schedule an appointment with an Attorney.