Ladybird deeds are used to pass ownership of real estate to someone when the owner dies without having to go through probate court. Parents often use them to pass their homestead to their children.
Here is a typical example of how a ladybird deed is used. Mom and Dad own their homestead and they want to pass it to their children after both Mom and Dad are deceased. Mom and Dad have a ladybird deed prepared by a qualified attorney. The deed says that when the last of them dies, the property will be owned by their children, who must be named in the deed. The deed gets signed and then recorded in the land records in the county where the homestead is located. After both Mom and Dad have died, one of the children can record death certificates for Mom and Dad
in the land records. Once that is done, the homestead is legally owned by the children named in the deed. Nothing else needs to be done.
If a ladybird is not used, when the last of Mom and Dad dies, usually a probate court case must be opened to transfer ownership of the homestead even if there is a Will that says the children inherit the homestead. A Will by itself does not transfer ownership until a probate court issues an order to that effect. The probate process can be expensive and time consuming depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, even if a ladybird deed is used, a probate case may be necessary for other reasons.
A ladybird deed can be tailored to the particular circumstances of the owner of property. One can be used after one of the parents is deceased so
that if Dad has died, Mom can sign a ladybird deed that leaves the homestead to her children. Property does not have to be left to the children nor does it have to be left to all of the children. It can be left to grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents and just about anyone.
What happens if a ladybird deed has been recorded and later Mom and Dad decide to change who gets the property? Or what if Mom and Dad decide to sell or mortgage the property? Most Florida real estate lawyers agree that a properly written ladybird deed will let Mom and Dad do whatever they want without the consent of the person who is named in the ladybird deed. However, there is no specific Florida law one way or the other. There are other issues that might arise when using a ladybird deed so consult with a qualified real estate
attorney before deciding whether to use one.
Ladybird deeds have been used for decades in Florida and to avoid probate of real property, most typically a homestead, but they may not be appropriate in every situation.