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Property Needs an Estate Plan Just Like Anything Else

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As Orlando estate planning attorneys, we talk a lot about how to pass assets and funds onto beneficiaries. But what about land? Land that is passed down without a will can also be lost in the same way that everything else that’s part of an estate can. Specifically, when land is passed down without a will, it becomes what is known as heirs’ property, whereby descendants simply inherit interest in the property. Because there is no title, as landowners, they then become vulnerable to developers and speculators, and this can leave heirs with unstable property ownership and clouded titles. This leaves it difficult for one person to renovate, improve, and increase the value of the property over time.

As a result, you want to make sure that the same way you draft a will with an attorney, you work to actively avoid losing land that has been passed on without a will, and take similar actions to help pass title in order to protect your heirs’ property in your land. As part of this, you will also want to make sure that all of your taxes are paid and up-to-date and all of the names on the deed for your land of been filled out. Note that Florida does not allow property to be transferred via transfer on death deeds. Instead, Florida allows for what’s known as an enhanced life estate deed (also known as a “Lady Bird” deed), which essentially functions as a transfer on death deed in terms of avoiding going through probate court.

Who Does This Most Affect?

According to studies, this issue disproportionately affects African-American households, especially in low-income communities. In particular, most of the research has focused on rural landowners in the southeastern U.S., including Florida. And in nonrural areas this can be an even bigger issue, as, the smaller the land parcel, the more difficult it is to meaningfully divide. 

Your Options

If the person who passed the land down to you failed to do this, do what you can to meet with an attorney and make sure you create a paper trail to prove your ownership. And if there are other heirs, they might be interested in transferring your interest in the property. Another option is working with an attorney to create a land trust in order to co-own the property.

Florida is one of the many states that never passed a Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, which expands heirs’ rights in partition actions. However, the Farm Bill that passed in 2018 created a vending program that provides assistance to heirs’ property owners.

Contact Our Florida Estate Planning Attorneys

For all of your estate planning needs, contact our Orlando estate planning and probate attorneys at the office of Gierach and Gierach, P.A. today to find out more about your options.

Resources:

floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-journal/the-disproportionate-impact-of-heirs-property-in-floridas-low-income-communities-of-color/

propublica.org/article/what-can-heirs-property-owners-do-to-protect-their-land-loss

https://www.gierachlaw.com/the-most-important-estate-planning-mistakes-to-avoid/

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