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Advantages of a Lady Bird Deed (Life Enhanced Deed)

A Lady Bird deed, or enhanced life estate deed, allows property to pass automatically to one or more designated recipients at death without the need for Florida probate. The process begins by a grantor signing a deed to a grantee, but retaining the right to sell, use, and otherwise manage the property during the grantor's lifetime. Upon the grantor's death, the grantee files the grantor's death certificate in the land records, serving as proof of death, and the property then passes directly to the grantee without the need for probate.

Advantages of Lady Bird Deed

A major benefit of using a Lady Bird deed rather than a traditional life estate deed is the retention of authority over the property during the life of the grantor. While a traditional life estate deed allows the grantor to use the property during his life, the grantor loses the option to change his mind. Once a traditional life estate is conveyed, the grantor may not sell, mortgage, convey, gift, or otherwise terminate the interest of the remainder beneficiaries without the consent of the grantee.

While a Lady Bird deed is similar in the sense that it allows the grantor to convey a future interest in the property and maintain a life estate, the Lady Bird deed also has the added benefit of maintaining complete control of the property during the grantor's lifetime. The grantor may sell, use, and mortgage the property during his lifetime without requiring consent of the remainder beneficiaries. Also, while the grantor of a traditional life estate deed may have to pay gift taxes for transferring the remainder interest, the grantor of a Lady Bird deed does not. This is so because the grantor retains the right to cancel the remainder interest conveyed to the beneficiary.

Maintaining Eligibility for Medicaid Benefits

It is also important to note that, generally, a traditional life estate deed triggers a five year waiting period for Medicaid benefits. However, an added benefit of using a Lady Bird Deed is that the execution of such a deed is not be considered a transfer of ownership (i.e., a gift) for purposes of applying for Florida Medicaid benefits. Using a Lady Bird deed in combination with the grantor's expressed "intent to return" to the property after being taken to nursing home, or the retained residence by their spouse, can have the advantage of avoiding the five year penalty period because the gift can always be revoked.

Tax Consequences of a Lady Bird Deed

There are no tax consequences to an enhanced life estate deed as there is no completed gift for estate tax purposes. This means that upon your death, the property will be distributed to the beneficiary with a step-up in basis, meanin the heirs will now be able to sell the property tax free. Also, the grantor gets to maintain their homestead for property tax purposes.

Home Refinance Issues

While the enhanced life estate deed will generally allow you to re-finance, sell, give away, etc., your home without the joinder of the grantee(s), some banks/lenders will not allow a mortgage on property where an enhanced life estate deed has been done. So if you ever think about refinancing your home, an enhanced life estate deed may not be for you. Of course, a real estate attorney can always fix the problem, but it will be frustrating when you are refinancing your home, for instance, and the lender will not allow the re-finance as you previously created an enhanced life estate deed.

Learn More About Lady Bird Deeds

If you want to learn more about Lady Bird deeds, we have more information here.

You may also want to consider creating a revocable living trust in order to avoid probate, which is generally a better way to avoid probate under most circumstances.

D. Rep DeLoach III
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Estate Planning and Board Certified Elder Law Attorney
8 Comments
Pat, I understand your frustration on the lady-bird deed. Lenders sometimes, but not every time, have a problem with a lady-bird deed. A real estate attorney can prepare a deed "undoing" your current enhanced life estate deed, which will allow you to re-finance your home. We are glad to help you with this if you are local.
by Rep DeLoach March 12, 2021 at 02:51 PM
I have a lady bird deed on my home in Florida naming my two sons as the beneficiaries. I was just denied a refinance on my home and now am regretting my decision. Is a lady bird deed revocable and how?
by Pat March 10, 2021 at 09:03 PM
Leslie, if one beneficiary (grantee) of a lady-bird deed dies before the grantor, then the deed is payable, at least partly, to the deceased beneficiary's estate - meaning a probate would need to take place for the share of the property payable to that beneficiary. So, we do not recommend lady-bird deeds for multiple beneficiaries in most circumstances.
by Rep DeLoach March 1, 2021 at 12:49 PM
Would it matter if her sister died before her father.
by Leslie Allard February 26, 2021 at 10:30 PM
Ajay, I am only able to comment on Florida law. I understand that California uses lady bird type deeds, but a California attorney will have to address your inquiry. Thank you for your question!
by Rep DeLoach February 2, 2021 at 08:49 AM
Does executing the Lady Bird Deed in California before 2/15/2021, retain the current property tax basis before Prop 19 goes into effect on 2/16/21. With Lady Bird Deed, is the Step Up in Capital Gains available at the time of the Grantor's death?
by Ajay Mehta February 2, 2021 at 01:13 AM
Lisa, First, we are sorry to hear about the death of both of your family members. On your question, the likely answer is that the deed is payable one-half to you and one-half to your sister's estate, meaning that while the property is not subject to your father's probate, your sister's portion is most likely part of her own probate estate, subject to her own will, or if she did not have one, subject to the laws of intestacy. An attorney (like us) can review the deed to confirm, but this is the likely outcome. This is one of the main disadvantages of a lady-bird deed - they do not do a good job of contingency planning, such as when a beneficiary dies. We are glad to review things if you want to call our office. Thank you!
by Rep DeLoach December 13, 2020 at 02:05 PM
We live in NC and my father had a lady bird deed. My sister and myself as the beneficiaries. Father passed away and my sister has passed away also. Because my sister has passed, does house go directly to me or is her spouse considered a beneficiary?
by Lisa December 12, 2020 at 07:43 AM
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