When someone dies owning real estate in Florida and does not have a carefully drafted estate plan or has a defective title/invalid deed, then a probate administration may be necessary. There are several instances where this may occur, and here are a few examples:

Title Held Individually or as Tenants in Common

In many instances, the title to real estate is held in an individual’s name (“fee simple”) or by a group of individuals, which is legally known as “tenants in common.” Individuals holding title to real estate as tenants in common have no rights of survivorship, which means that when someone dies, the decedent’s individual interest in the real estate will need to be probated in order for it to pass on to the heirs of the estate.

Joint Tenants with Full Rights of Survivorship

Another way that a group of individuals or family members can hold title is called “joint tenants with full rights of survivorship.” This means that if one owner dies, the surviving joint tenants absorb the decedent’s interest in the real estate. In Florida, the doctrine of the right of survivorship in cases of real estate held jointly by individuals is not recognized, unless the instrument creating the estate shall expressly provide for the right of survivorship. Again, each individual’s estate would need to be probated if the deed does not contain these magic words.

Tenants by the Entirety

In Florida, when a husband and wife acquire real or personal property jointly, it is presumed that title is held as “tenants by the entirety” with rights of survivorship. This means that the surviving spouse would automatically acquire the deceased spouse’s interest in the real estate. However, upon a subsequent divorce, the former spouses will hold title to the real estate as tenants in common.

Defects in the Decedent’s Title

There are also many circumstances where the actual deed that conveyed title to the decedent is defective on its face. The Florida statutory laws involving real estate conveyance is complicated, convoluted, and can be very unforgiving. Some examples of this are:

  • Incorrect legal description
  • Invalid deed execution
  • Wild deed in the chain of title
  • Fraudulent conveyance
  • Invalid will, trust, or probate administration

Should any of the foregoing conveyance defects arise, then the heirs or devisees of the decedent may very well find themselves in the midst of an expensive probate administration, or even worse, litigation.

How Do I Avoid These Title Issues and Probate Administration?

Luckily, there are ways to prevent and avoid  title issues that could later require a probate administration in Florida. We can assist to review your existing documents or draft new ones to achieve the future protection and goals you desire! Give us a call at 561-838-9595 or email us at [email protected].

Source: Loshak Leach LLP, Florida