Real Estate & Probate In Florida
When a person passes away, and their will is read, it is not uncommon for them to have left real property or land to one or more of their heirs. However, before the person’s heir can take possession of the property (or sell it, should they wish), the bequest usually has to go through Florida probate in order to successfully transfer title. Depending on the estate, this process may be quick and seamless, but it is just as likely to get bogged down by technicalities, especially without the assistance of experienced legal help.
Is Probate Required?
If you have been left a piece of property in the will of a friend or loved one, the first step you must take is to ascertain how the property was held. There are many different ways under Florida law to validly hold property, and most of them require the probate process – but some do not. For example, if the property was owned by the deceased person and their best friend as joint tenants with the rights of survivorship, and the deed explicitly states this, the best friend receives the property without it having to go through probate. However, if the property was owned by your deceased spouse and only their name was on the deed, probate is almost always necessary.
Once it is determined whether or not probate is required, enlisting a probate attorney to expedite the process is usually the next step. Probate can be a long, drawn-out progression, taking weeks or even months to complete. It is possible to list a property or even begin the process of concluding a transaction while probate is in process, but the closing may not happen, under any circumstances, until probate has ended. If you do this, however, it is recommended to enlist a real estate attorney to handle this part of the transaction, rather than handling it yourself.
If you are interested in selling the property you have been bequeathed, it is important to be aware of whether or not it was designated as the decedent’s homestead. In Florida, a person may designate a piece of property as their homestead, if it is their principal residence and they have no intent to reside anywhere else. It is generally in their best interests to do this, as it comes with several protections, such as exemption from most property taxes.
That said, homestead designation can make selling the property more difficult, even once it is out of probate. A homestead must, under Florida law, be sold by the heirs or beneficiaries of the decedent, rather than by the personal representative. In addition, the law does not allow a homestead to be willed to anyone other than a surviving spouse or minor child, so any bequest made to someone else will automatically be declared invalid. If that happens in your case, the homestead immediately devolves to the surviving spouse in most cases, who may not be interested in selling. Each case is different, and has the potential to go smoothly or to become bogged down in minutiae.
Call A Tampa Real Estate Attorney
Selling real estate that you have received in probate can be a complex endeavor, and having an experienced Tampa real estate attorney on your side to answer questions about the process can make all the difference in the transaction being concluded smoothly. Attorney Alicia Seward and the Seward Law Office are ready and willing to try and assist you with your case. Contact our office today at 813-252-6789 to schedule an initial consultation.