Recently in Homestead Category

August 29, 2012

Trusts and Florida Homestead Property

florida-case-law.jpgFlorida is a rather unique state in rights associated with homestead exemptions from forced sale. In a nutshell, it is nearly impossible for creditors to force the sale of a homestead (a situation famously highlighted by OJ Simpson, who purchased a large estate in Florida in part to avoid creditors).

Florida's homestead exemption also protects spouses and children of decedents: a spouse cannot transfer the property by will if survived by a spouse or minor child. While this rule often plays a positive role for families of decedents, certain cases show potential perils. Those cases primarily involve "blended families"; i.e., situations where a person late in life remarries. Florida's homestead exemption seems to presume that the surviving spouse will also be a biological parent of the surviving children, but that is not always the case. Blended families can be a lightening rod of litigation, as highlighted by the case of Aronson-v-Aronson.pdf.

This case is the third time the parties have been in the appellate court. These parties have been fighting for over a decade. Here's the story: a Mr. Aronson died after creating a revocable trust. Under the terms of the trust, his wife Doreen would take a life estate in the Key Biscayne condo the two of them shared. After that, the condo would go to Mr. Aronson's sons. However, in the time between creating the trust and dying, Mr. Aronson deeded the same condo directly to Doreen.

This created some problems, as there were basically two conflicting deeds. The first time through litigation, the court held that once deeded to a revocable trust, the individual could no longer validly deed the property to anyone else. The court then reconsidered, and completely reversed itself. Instead, under the new rule, the condo was not ever a valid trust asset because it was an invalid devise of homestead property. Basically, the moment Mr. Aronson died, his homestead transferred to his wife as a life estate, and thereafter to his surviving sons (so, basically, the law coincided with the terms of the trust anyway).

If this sounds confusing, don't worry. It took ten years of litigation to figure all this out, and that involved a Florida Appeals Court having to reverse itself before getting the law right. Although this is confusing, much of the litigation in Aronson could have been avoided had Mr. Aronson used a qualified attorney to help him with his estate planning. Still, do not forget the endless array of possibilities that may arise in blended family situations.

Finally, it's worth noting that some of the law in this area changed in 2010 (many years after Aronson's litigation began). Now, instead of automatically taking a life estate, a surviving spouse has six months to opt out of the life estate and take a 50% share as a tenant in common of the homestead property. This option may be more beneficial for certain parties, and anyone in this situation should consider talking to an estate planning attorney for advice.

If you are in a similar situation, or if you have any estate planning questions, contact a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer at Apple Law Firm.

May 16, 2011

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Deed to Deed

For Sale Sign.jpgIf your last parent in Florida has passed away leaving their Jacksonville home, how do you proceed if you want to sell the house? A Florida deed transfers title to real property from one person(s) to another. Generally before anyone will purchase a property, they will require clear title to the real property.

Whether your surviving parent died with a Florida Will or without a Will (intestate), if you want to sell the home, title to the property will need to be transferred to your parents to the named beneficiary or heir. A Florida probate proceeding is necessary to transfer title to the real property in such a way as to establish clear title. Florida statutes require that a Jacksonville Probate Lawyer or a Florida Probate Lawyer is used to represent the Personal Representative or Estate when there is more than one heir in an estate.

March 13, 2011

To Be Florida Homestead or not To Be Florida Homestead

homestead- House.jpgAtlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach homeowners may know that the Florida Homestead Protection mandated by the Florida Constitution, is afforded to many residents.

This homestead protection protects one's home from the claims of most creditors. Further, if one dies leaving minor children, then the home cannot be devised (giving property away in one's will) or sold.

As with everything in the law, the homestead protection is not black or white. There are many interpretations based on a case to case basis. In a recent Florida case, the court held that a house owned by a decedent and his mother as joint tenants with right of survivorship was not homestead property for purposes of the administration of decedent's estate.

Although the decedent had minor child when he bought the house with his mother, the deed to the property was titled between decedent and his mother as joint tenants with right of survivorship. The court held that upon decedent's death, his interest in the property terminated, and it became the sole property of his mother as the surviving joint tenant without any life estate for the benefit of his children.

Confused? Join the crowd. Homestead status and homestead protection is a complex legal doctrine, and it is best to discuss your individual circumstances with a Jacksonville Probate Attorney.

January 17, 2011

Florida Homestead Protection in a Trust?

condos images.jpgAs a Jacksonville Attorney at a Florida Estate Planning Firm, I have seen many issues concerning homestead protection in both probate matters and in estate planning. When you occupy a home in Florida as your main residence, this is called your homestead property. Notwithstanding some exceptions, the Florida Constitution protects the homestead from forced sale by creditors. If the owner of a homestead dies, the creditor protection of the home (from the decedent's creditors) continues for the spouse or family members who inherit the homestead. If the home becomes the homestead of the spouse or other family members then they shall also enjoy the same creditor protection from their creditors.

A Florida condominium was transferred to a Florida revocable trust. Upon the death of the first, the Florida Revocable Trust created a marital trust for the spouse, with the remainder to sons from a previous marriage. A few months after the condo was titled to the trust, the same condo was deeded directly to the spouse. A lawsuit ensued as to who owned the condo, the trust or the 2nd wife.

The sons won an initial victory, ensuring they would receive the condo upon the surviving spouse's death. The surviving spouse counter-sued for reimbursement of all condo related expenses paid with her own funds, and won a money judgment against the sons. The spouse wanted the sons to transfer a percentage of the condo interest to her, and the sons wanted the trust to sell the condo to obtain money to pay the judgment against them. The sons lost.

A Florida District Court ruled that homestead property (the condominium) held in a marital trust does NOT lose its creditor protection. Homestead issues can be complicated and diverse, it is recommended that you consult with a Jacksonville Homestead Attorney to learn more about the homestead protection and how it effects you and your family.

The rights of a surviving spouse changed in late 2010. These new rights give the option of a 50% interest in the sale of a homestead or a life estate. In most cases where the home is owned by husband and wife as Tenants in common, the surviving spouse will have full ownership of the home.


November 22, 2010

Homestead Exemption Crackdown

Most Florida Estate Planning Lawyer deal with planning for the unexpected and protecting your assets for those after we are gone. Part of this protection and planning often involves the use of the Florida Homestead. The Homestead Exemption is not exclusive to Florida. A recent case, a New York Representative is accused of claiming a Homestead exemption for a home located in Washington, D.C.

The homestead exemption varies from location to location, but it generally applies to one's primary home. Recently government officials have noted that even though this exemption was established in the late 1800s, still only few today take advantage of it.

Tax officials in several locations around the country, including Florida, have begun to crackdown on the number fraudulent claims that are being reported every year. The New York Times reported that Jennifer Frastai, City manager of Hallandale Florida, has begun an intensive effort to stop fraudulent homestead claims.

In Florida there are two homesteads. This article is dealing with the property tax credit with is often confused from the homestead that protects your residence from attacks by most creditors. While many states offer homestead credits for taxes, few offer unlimited protection from creditors. If you would like someone to review your estate planning documents to see if you qualify for either type of Florida Homestead Exemption, contact your local Florida Estate Planning Lawyer today.

November 22, 2010

Florida Homestead Property Law for Condominiums

twohomes.jpgFlorida homestead is a constitutional protection which makes the homestead of a decedent exempt from the claims of creditors. Florida Homestead can apply to condominiums, however, a Florida District Court recently affirmed a lower court decision which held that decedent's contractual interest in a condominium (which was owned by decedent at the time of her death) was not homestead property, and therefore, not protected from claims of creditors.

The decedent had purchased a life estate in a condominium from the condominium association and then entered into a repurchase agreement. The repurchase agreement provided that upon the death of decedent the life estate would automatically terminate and fee simple title would be vested in the condominium association, which would then attempt to sell the condominium for the benefit of decedent's heirs. Therefore, the condominium was not afforded homestead protection.

Considering the descendant did not have an interest at the time of death, I am not sure what this case was about. If her interest expired at death, there was nothing there to protect.

If you or a loved one owns a condominium in Ponte Vedra Florida make sure you know what type of agreements have been entered into between condominium owner and condominium association and consult with a Florida Attorney to learn more about the homestead law.


September 12, 2010

Estate Planning Update: New Changes to Florida Homestead

home_under_water.jpgStarting October 1, 2010, if you die in Florida your spouse will be able to elect to take the traditional life estate in your homestead that is separate property or a 1/2 interest in the property. While this does not effect many Floridians, it does effect many who got married after purchasing their home or who have children from another marriage.

Traditionally the new spouse would receive a life estate ( the ability to live in the home for the rest of their life) and the children of the deceased parent who owned the home would receive the remainder of the property after the death of the surviving spouse or their step parent.

A Florida Estate Planning Lawyer can create documents that change or alter the homestead rights of a surviving spouse. Remember that it may not be your spouse making the decision, but the government or an agent acting under a power of attorney who make the decision and they may not agree with what you and your spouse decided upon years earlier. It is best to create a post nuptial agreement or valid waiver to address these issues while everyone agrees and before it is too late.

Contact a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer or Florida Estate Planning Lawyer to discuss creating documents that address these issues and protect your spouse and children from the influence of others.

September 2, 2010

Florida Constitution can protect two Florida Homes as Homestead

twohomes.jpgThe Homestead Exemption in Florida, which was established in the State's Constitution, has always provided for the protection of the Family home free from creditors and liens. In 1985 the Constitution was amended to extend the protection to the "natural person" and not necessarily having to be the head of the household. The 4th district Court of Appeals ruled that a husband and wife who are separated for a period of time can BOTH claim the Florida Homestead Protection from creditors. This ruling does nothing to allow two homestead tax deductions. Law v. Law et al., 738 So. 2d 522.

The case involves a husband and wife who were separated for several years. They both claimed Homestead exemption for the Hollywood home that they owned jointly. But when his mother got sick, he and his wife decided to sell the home to pay for the medical bills. His ex-wife had a claim against him for support and brought action to seek recovery through the sell of the home. He filed for Homestead exemption. The court of appeals ruled that "we see nothing inconsistent with our public policy if we extend a homestead exemption to each of two people who are married, but legitimately live apart in separate residences, if they otherwise meet the requirements." Court referencing Colwell v. Royal International Trading Corp., 226 B.R. 714 (Bank S.D. Fla. 1998) to show precedent on allowing dual homestead exemption. The court seemed to find it important to find that the separation was not contrived to defraud creditors.

If you would like to talk about how to create two homesteads and document them to avoid unnecessary litigation over the issue, contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer or if one or more of your home is in foreclosure contact a Jacksonville Foreclosure Defense Lawyer.

May 3, 2010

Florida Homestead Protection and Creditors: Will your home be protected upon your death?

house.jpgWhen a person dies, who owned a property protected by a Florida Homestead we generally expect the property to be free from the claims of creditors.

There are certain situations when this is not true and other types of planning could prevent creditors from making claims against your Florida Homestead.

So when will your property lose homestead protection upon your death:
1) if you are not survived by a spouse or children and devise your property o people not listed in Florida Statute 732.103.
2) If you are not survived by a minor child and have a valid prenuptial agreement or waiver of homestead rights with your spouse and devise the property to someone not named in Florida Statute 732.103.

(Florida Statute 732.103 deals with the spouse, descendants, parents, siblings, grand parents, uncles, aunts, their kindred, and great-grand parents.)

If you want to leave your homestead to someone who is not defined in Florida Statute 732.103 we can help you maintain protection from the claims of creditors and avoid probate. Since there can often be many unexpected and significant expenses associated with end of life, it could be a good idea to plan to protect what could be your single largest asset- your home.

Note that many people incorrectly believe that a Revocable living trust can protect your home from the claims of creditors. While there may be homestead protection for those defined in Florida Statue 732.103, a Florida Revocable Trust in an of itself does not provide asset protection.

To talk about how to protect your assets and home from the claims of creditors, contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer.

November 22, 2009

Foreclosure Defense: St. Johns county information

If you own a home, subject to a Foreclosure in St. Johns county, you should contact a Florida Foreclosure Lawyer to discuss your rights.

St. Johns county is made up of the following citites.
Crescent Beach, Fort Matanzas, Fruit Cove, Hastings, Marineland, Palm Valley, Ponte Vedra, Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine (County Seat), St. Augustine Beach, Switzerland, Vilano Beach.

A Florida Foreclosure Lawyer can file a response to a St. Johns County Foreclosure to stop the proceeding or find errors and evidence of things the bank, bank servicer, mortgage company or others have done wrong in conjunction with your loan.

Many times loans have been destroyed or lost and there many be no real party in interest that is able to sue you. It is important to answer your Foreclosure suit correctly and alleged the proper defenses and counter claims so that you can have a favorable settlement. If you would like to discuss your options, you should contact a Florida Foreclosure Lawyer as soon as possible.

For more information on Jacksonville or Florida Foreclosure Defense See the Florida Foreclosure Defense Lawyers Blog.

November 22, 2009

Loan Modification Leads to Florida Foreclosure for Many.

To date, only a very small percentage of loans have received modifications. And, even those modifications are only good for number of years. At the end of the modification term, the loans revert back to what started this mess in the first place. Where will you be then? If you have already entered into a modification of your mortgage, take a close look at what you "really" agreed to.

In October 2009, Josh Fuhrman, a representative of the Home ownership Preservation Foundation spoke at a town hall meeting and asked homeowners to be "patient" about the slow pace of loan modifications. It is common knowledge that only a very small percentage (about 12%) of people who qualify for relief actually get approved for a loan modification. Should the other 88% just sit tight while lenders foreclose on their homes? Seem fair? Remember, most likely, YOU ARE IN THE MAJORITY 88%!

Did the bank loose your paperwork or as you to resubmit it every 30 days. Homeowners are under a false sense of security thinking they are safe from foreclosure and do not seek other remedies. Homeowners are using their common sense of fairness thinking that the lender will not proceed with the foreclosure. THIS IS NOT TRUE.

Many lenders do not close foreclosure proceedings even if they offer you a loan modification. If you are in the middle of a loan modification, expect a foreclosure, or are being foreclosed for a Florida property that you live in or rent, contact a Florida Foreclosure Lawyer to discuss your rights or review your proposed loan modification.

For more information on Jacksonville or Florida Foreclosure Defense See the Florida Foreclosure Defense Lawyers Blog.

November 18, 2009

Loan Mortgage Modificiation and Foreclosure Defense

foreclosure-sign.jpg Many Jacksonville Foreclosure Lawyers see the poor attempt by banks to do loan modifications.

Loan Modifications are in the news in Jacksonville Florida where it appears that many have been told to stop making payments to be eligible for a Mortgage Modification. Once individuals stop making payments, the banks have been known to stall and claim that they have lost the records. Often individuals who participate in loan modifications must resubmit documents every thirty days. Many do not qualify for the government supported loan modifications and are only offered minor drops in the payments.

If you are participating or trying to achieve a Florida Loan Modification, you should be gathering information on violations of the laws by the people you are speaking to. Please contact a Florida Foreclosure Lawyer to request information on how to log these violations. These violations of the laws can be compensated and can help to offset your mortgage amount.

For more information on Jacksonville or Florida Foreclosure Defense See the Florida Foreclosure Defense Lawyers Blog.

November 18, 2009

Probate and Foreclosure Defense

as a Jacksonville Foreclosure Lawyers who also practices Florida Probate Law I see many Florida Estates where the decedent's home has negative equity. If you are appointed the Personal Representative of a Florida Probate you should explore Florida Foreclosure Defense. You may have a fiduciary duty to do so and preserve the assets of the estate.

If you are considering a Florida Foreclosure Defense you will need to do a Formal Administration of the Probate so that a Florida Personal Representative can be appointed to defend the Florida Foreclosure and pursue counterclaims on behalf of the decedent's estate or beneficiaries.

For more information on Jacksonville or Florida Foreclosure Defense See the Florida Foreclosure Defense Lawyers Blog.

July 12, 2009

Is a lawyer required for a Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed?

While in Florida a lawyer is not required to create a valid deed like a ladybird deed or Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed it may be a good idea to have a lawyer or attorney review these specific document because of their propensity for errors and the bad or unexpected outcome that would occur with an invalid or incorrect Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed.
1. A lawyer can check to make sure that the deeds are executed with the formality required under Florida Statutes.

2. That an Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed is the best method of accomplishing your goals. With property with larger mortgages, a deed of this type may not be the best or most affordable method for transferring the property upon the death of the owners because of the mortgage taxes in Florida.

3. In addition, some of the forms and Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deeds that I have seen do not properly deal with the property upon death and title companies have been known to require a probate before they will issue a new title policy. This can cost the family thousands of dollars on a homestead and up to 3 percent of the value of the home on non-homestead properties.

4. Prevent a portion of the property from lapsing, Florida's anti-lapse statute deals with devises by will and in trusts but would not protect an interest in a property that was given to an individual who predeceased the grantor of the deed. Because a Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed is a contingent gift, it is possible that the remainder interest would be directed back to the estate of the grantor in a case were the contingent remainder beneficiary of the deed was to predecease the grantor.

5. The most important reason to use a lawyer with a Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed deals with the circumstances surrounding the use of this type of deed. Often when a lawyer prepares these deeds they the process will cause them to evaluate the other financial, estate planning, elder law, and Medicaid planning that are found when these deeds are used. Paying a lawyer who is familiar with these issues to prepare your deed is a good way to have your personal circumstances and issues evaluated at the same time.

If you would like more information on a Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed you should Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer who is familiar with these issues.

May 18, 2009

Probate & Summary Administration

duval-court-old.jpgA Summary Administration in Florida is an abbreviated Florida Probate proceeding where estates with assets of less than $75,000 or those where the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years can simplify the probate process. We often find that the families of people who die with a home or other property do not properly administer their loved one's estate at the time of death and must go back to clear up the title so that the property can be sold or transferred properly at some later date.

When a piece of real property is involved in the estate, we have to ask the court to determine if the property is protected as a Florida Homestead or is subject to the claims of creditors. Once this determination is made the property can be transferred properly.

If you need help clearing up the title of a home or property located in Florida that belonged to a person who died, we can help with a Florida Summary Administration, please Contact a Florida Probate Lawyer for more information on this process.