The Florida lady bird deed form allows property to be automatically transferred to a new owner when the current owner dies, without the need to go through probate. It also gives the current owner retained control over the property, including the right to change his or her mind about the transfer.
Special language is required to ensure that the deed qualifies as a lady bird deed. This language is automatically included by our deed preparation service and valid in all Florida counties.
A Florida lady bird deed form is a relatively new type of deed designed for a specific purpose: It allows Florida property owners to transfer property to others upon death without sacrificing control over the property during life. Here’s how it works:
This ability to avoid probate at death—coupled with the original owner’s broad control over the property during life—makes lady bird deeds a popular estate planning tool in Florida.
Lady bird deeds are only recognized in five states: Florida, Michigan, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia. Each state has its own requirements for validity, so it is important to use a lady bird deed form specifically designed for use in the state where the property is located. The Florida lady bird deeds created by our Deed Generator were designed by licensed Florida attorneys to meet the requirements of Florida law.
Lady bird deeds have several distinguishing features that make them excellent estate planning tools for Florida property owners:
Some title insurance companies will not insure lady bird deeds when those deeds are used to exclude a child from inheriting the property while giving the property to his or her siblings. This could create title issues in the future. If an enhanced life estate deed is being used to transfer property to children, it is good practice to include all children on the deed.
Lady bird deeds can also be invalidated by Florida homestead law. Florida Statutes § 732.401 provides that, if a deceased person is survived by a spouse and lineal descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), then the surviving spouse gets a life estate in the homestead and the deceased owner’s lineal descendants receive a vested remainder interest. In this scenario, a lady bird deed cannot be used to change this requirement unless the spouse and children join in the conveyance.
The technical name for a lady bird deed is enhanced life estate deed. The life estate included in the lady bird deed is “enhanced” by the broad powers retained by the original owner. Lady bird deeds are sometimes called ladybird deeds (without the space between lady and bird). These terms are used interchangeably in modern Florida real estate practice.
Whether or not a deed is a lady bird deed is independent of warranties of title being conveyed. In other words, a lady bird deed could be a quitclaim deed, warranty deed, or special warranty deed. See What is the Right Title for Your Deed? For more information about deed titles.
A Florida lady bird deed form is a subcategory of life estate deed. Traditional life estate deeds also avoid probate, but they have a significant drawback: Once a traditional life estate deed is signed, the original owner cannot sell, mortgage, convey, gift, or otherwise terminate the remainder interest during his or her lifetime without the consent of the remainder beneficiaries. In other words, the original owner can’t change his or her mind without involving the future owners. Lady bird deeds avoid this problem by giving the original owner “enhanced” power to deal with the property without the consent of the remainder beneficiaries.
Although the Florida documentary stamp tax applies to transfers of real estate by deed, lady bird deeds escape taxation in most circumstances. The Florida Department of Revenue does not assess a full documentary stamp tax if the person who transfers the property is the same person that retains the life interest. Instead, the deed is only assessed a minimum documentary stamp tax (usually $0.70) when the lady bird deed is filed. If the property is not sold by the date of the grantor’s death, it becomes subject to full documentary stamp taxes at that time.
Although lady bird deeds are common in Florida and have been recognized by the Florida government, they are not based on a specific statute. Lady bird deeds were created by attorneys to help clients avoid probate at death while retaining control over the property during life. Their validity does not depend on statutory authorization, but whether title companies will insure them.
Because the Florida lady bird deed form is not defined by statute, it is important to use a form of lady bird deed that is customarily recognized by title insurance companies in the state where the property is located. The Florida lady bird deeds created by our Deed Generator are based on well-accepted forms that are routinely insured by title companies in Florida.