“Lady Bird” Deeds
In the article on “The Disproportionate Impact of Heirs Property in Florida’s Low-Income Communities of Color” in the September/October issue, the authors fail to mention the single most effective method of reducing the impact of heirs’ property, to wit, the extended powers life estate deed, also referred to as the “Lady Bird Deed.” Such deeds executed by the current owner allows passage of title to the intended beneficiaries upon death of the owner by simply filing a death certificate in the official records. In my office, the cost of such a deed is roughly the same as a simple will. The owner retains the right to sell, lease, or otherwise transfer ownership interest in the real property without consent of the remainder interest persons, but if not so transferred, to pass to the remainder persons upon the death of the owner. In my experience with many such low-income persons, the home is the single item of value in their estate, and the beneficiaries often do not have the financial resources to probate a will. A truly effective “estate plan” combines such a deed with pay-on-death and beneficiary clauses on all financial property.
I find that rarely do estate planners advise clients of these techniques, which are the lowest cost and most effective means of reducing heirs’ property and passing estates to the intended beneficiaries, because they are not focused on low-income and low asset value clients, while much of my practice is just such.