What is a Ladybird Deed?

A "Ladybird Deed," also known as an enhanced life estate deed, is a way to transfer property to someone else outside of probate while retaining a life estate in the property. 

Unlike a regular life estate, a Ladybird Deed gives you the power to retain a life estate, without any liability for waste, with full power and authority in said life tenancy to sell, convey, mortgage, lease or otherwise manage and dispose of the property with or without consideration, without joinder of the remaindermen, and with power and authority to retain any and all proceeds derived therefrom. You can terminate the Ladybird Deed if you choose to do so. By retaining a life estate, in a Ladybird Deed your property will not lose its homestead status.

Here's how it works:

The current owner signs a deed transferring his or her Florida property to himself or herself for life, with the remainder to pass to another person or group of people (called the remaindermen or remainder beneficiaries) at death.

The interest retained by the original owner-called a life estate-is coupled with powers that give the original owner ongoing control over the property. The original owner can sell, use, or otherwise deal with the property during life without involving the remainder beneficiaries. The original owner can even change his or her mind altogether and do something different with the property.

The remainder beneficiaries have no rights to the property while the original owner is still alive. The original owner doesn't need the consent of the remainder beneficiaries to sell or otherwise deal with the property. (This is the difference between a life estate deed and a lady bird)

Upon the death of the original owner-and assuming the original owner didn't change his or her mind-the property passes automatically to the remainder beneficiaries, without the need for probate.

This ability to avoid probate at death-coupled with the original owner's broad control over the property during life-makes the lady bird deeds a popular estate planning tool in Florida.

Depending on your circumstances, a Ladybird Deed may be wiser than adding someone to your property as a joint tenant. If you add a person to your deed as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, then the property is inherited by the surviving tenant. Although you can avoid probate by establishing a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, the joint tenant could cause serious problems to you. For instance, if you decide to mortgage the property, you will need consent of the other joint tenant. You lose control of making decisions concerning the property. You will not be able to sell the property without the joint tenant's consent. Your only recourse in such a situation is to file a partition action wherein the court orders the sale of the property by either public or private sale with the proceeds being divided between the joint tenants.

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