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Mom should consider a life estate deed

By Staff | May 10, 2019

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

My mother, who is a widow, owns her home free and clear of any loans. She says a friend told her that, when she dies, her house will automatically go to her heirs, which would be me and my sister. Is this true? I heard probate can be expensive and time consuming, and I know she would not want us to go to court unnecessarily.

– Stacey M.

Dear Stacey:

This is a question that comes up frequently with my clients. First, you should be commended for having these discussions with your mother. These conversations are not a highlight in anyone’s day, but knowing the intent of your loved ones, and planning for that intent, can be vital.

From your message, it appears that the house is in your mother’s name individually. If so, and your mom passed with no estate planning completed, the property would eventually be titled to you and your sister. However, it would occur through a court process, known as probate. This process can be both time consuming and expensive. The average cost of probate for my clients averages about $7,500.

This is why I strongly encourage my clients to have a plan that avoids probate. In the case of your mom’s home, executing an Enhanced Life Estate Deed will cause the property to pass to you and your sister directly, without probate. At the same time, all of the homestead protections she had will remain in place, if she has any creditors. This deed also allows your mother to retain full and absolute control of the property during her life, including the right to mortgage or sell the property.

Please let your mom know she should meet with an attorney to discuss all of her options, which can include a living trust. However, for the majority of my clients, a life estate deed is a highly economical and efficient way to ensure real estate passes easily to loved ones.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 30 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Historical Museum, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 18 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

Mr. Feichthaler can be reached at eric@capecoralattorney.com, or (239) 542-4733.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.