Transferring property after the death of a loved one is one of the most common issues our probate attorneys manage. After a property owner dies, the heirs, trustee, or personal representative will need to properly document the transfer of property ownership from the deceased property owner (or “decedent”) to their beneficiaries.
How a Florida property title is transferred depends on the type of property ownership held by the decedent and whether or not there was a will. Oftentimes, the property will need to go through the probate process.
Transferring Property Without Probate
Probate can generally be avoided is the property is held in the name of a trust or if the property deed shows the decedent owned the property with another person, as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or tenants by the entirety.
- Trusts. Trusts are similar to a will in that they can dictate to whom property is to be transferred upon the trust maker’s (or Grantor’s) death. If the property was held in the name of the trust, a named trustee has the power to transfer property in accordance with the terms of the trust.
- Joint Ownership with Survivorship Rights. If the property was held by the decedent and another person, as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, title to the property automatically passes to the surviving owner. The surviving owner will have to record a death certificate with the county’s clerk of courts, but probate is not needed.
- Tenancy by the Entirety. This form of joint ownership is limited to married couples. In tenants by the entirety, the property is owned by the married couple as a whole, not as individual owners. Therefore, when one spouse dies, property ownership passes to the surviving spouse automatically. When a married couple purchases a home, Florida law actually presumes that they intend to own property together unless they specify otherwise.
Transferring Property Through Probate
Probate is necessary when the property owner held title individually, or with another person as tenants in common.
- Individual Ownership. If the decedent owned the property individually, it will likely have to go through the probate process to transfer ownership to the heirs or beneficiaries.
- With a Will. If the decedent has a Will, property is generally transferred to the named beneficiary through the probate process. The Will names a personal representative who , after being appointed by the probate court, is given authority to transfer ownership of the property in accordance with the terms of the Will..
- Without a Will. When someone dies without a Will, they leave behind an “intestate” estate. In these cases, a personal representative will be appointed by the probate court to transfer ownership of the decedent’s property in accordance with Florida law known as intestate succession. Intestate succession determines the heirs of the decedent’s property; typically the surviving spouse, children, and/or next of kin.
- Tenants in Common. If the decedent owned property with another person, other than their spouse, it is presumed they are tenants in common. Tenants in common each own an equal share of the property. The Decedents share of the property would be transferred to their heirs or beneficiaries through the probate process.
Keep in mind that state law dictates how property can be transferred. If you aren’t a Florida resident, the requirements may be different.
Meet With A Probate Attorney To Review Property Status
If you are uncertain about how to transfer property in Florida after the death of a loved one, contact one of our probate attorneys for advice consultation. A probate attorney can review the situation and advise you as to whether or not probate is required and guide you through the process. It is better to take a proactive approach and verify the decedent’s ownership and properly transfer their interest to the heirs or beneficiaries before trying to sell or reside in the property since documentation of the ownership transfer may be necessary.
To learn more about the probate services at Overstreet, Miles, Cumbie & Finkenbinder, P.A, contact us at 407.847.5151.