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Decoding Probate: Navigating the Florida Inherited Home Market

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Your loved one just passed away, and you inherited their home under their Last Will and Testament. Your first instinct may be to jump right in and figure out what you want to do with the property. Unfortunately, if the home you inherited was owned solely by the deceased in their individual name, you will need to go through the court-supervised probate process to legally gain the right to sell that home.

In Florida, real estate assets make up approximately 75% of the estates that go through probate every year. Probate is a legal process that involves the distribution of a deceased person’s property or estate in accordance with their Last Will and Testament. The probate process authorizes the sale of real estate to potential buyers or the transfer/release of real estate to the heirs of the deceased.

Core Principles of Probate

Regardless of whether someone is an heir, seller, or buyer, the concept of probate remains consistent:

  1. Ownership: The deceased person owned real estate (with no survivorship rights).
  2. Demise: They passed away.
  3. Transfer Requirement: For the rightful heirs to gain title and the ability to sell/transfer the real estate, they must undergo a formal court process to officially transfer the title. 

Without going through probate, heirs lack the authority to sell or transfer the real estate. The probate process involves an attorney opening a court file, transferring the deceased’s assets to the rightful heirs, and formally completing the title transfer. Once the title is transferred, the heirs gain the authority to sell or transfer the real estate.

Navigating the Probate Process

Most people assume that if they create a Last Will and Testament, they will avoid the probate process at their death. When in reality, a Last Will and Testament simply provides a “roadmap” for the judges and attorneys to follow as the probate process progresses.

Common ways of avoiding probate on homes passing to a beneficiary is to have an Enhanced Life Estate Deed prepared, add a joint owner to the property, or establish a Revocable Living Trust. Each of these methods has pros and cons, and it is important to review these concepts with an estate planning attorney before you implement one of these strategies into your personal estate plan.

Inheriting real estate can be confusing and complicated. Whether you intend to sell the property or retain it for yourself, it is crucial to take the appropriate legal steps to ensure the legal transfer of title. I advise you to consult an estate planning or probate attorney should you become the beneficiary of a piece of real estate upon the death of a loved one.

Lauren Mabe, Esq.

Lauren Mabe, Esq.

Lauren Mabe focuses her practice on Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning, Wealth Protection Planning, Trust Administration, and Probate.

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