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Some advice could cost you dearly

January 5, 2018
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

My husband passed away last month, and we lived here in Florida for the past 17 years. We owned the property as husband and wife, so I believe I now own the property without having to do anything else. My friend at the library suggested I add my son to the title of the property, by making a quitclaim deed to him and I. Is this a good idea? My son also lives in Cape Coral with his wife and two children.

- Dolores N.

Dear Dolores:

My condolences on the passing of your husband. I am sure it is a comfort to have your son and grandchildren in Cape Coral during this time. In the immediate days after a death of a loved one, it is advisable not to make major decisions that could impact your family's finances. If decisions must be made, seeking professional advice is vital to avoid making a mistake. Based on your situation, your friend at the library has given you advice which could cost you dearly.

First, I assume your goal is for your son to ultimately take title to the property after your passing. If you quitclaim 50 percent to your son, you each will have a 50 percent divided interest in the property. This means that, if one of you died, that 50 percent would not automatically go to the survivor (as it did when your husband passed), but would go to whomever the heirs are of the decedent. This would require probate, which is costly, time-consuming and a complete waste in this situation.

The property tax consequences would also be significant if you followed your friend's advice. Since your son lives elsewhere, and presumably has homestead, you would lose 50 percent of the homestead protection of the property. You would also lose 50 percent of the property tax deduction and save our homes cap as well. Since your son doesn't live with you, and nobody can have two homesteads, your taxes would definitely increase.

One of the ways to avoid this situation is to execute an Enhanced Life Estate Deed to your son. You retain the possession and control of the property, as well as the full benefit of homestead. When you pass, your heirs (in this case, your son) receive the property without the need for probate. As frequently mentioned, a small amount of planning and advice can save thousands of dollars, and reduce stress on your loved ones in the future.

I wish you and all of our Cape Coral readers a very Happy New Year.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for 28 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continued his service to the community through his chairmanship of the Harney Point Kiwanis Club KidsFest from 2011-2015, which provides a free day of fun and learning to thousands of Cape Coral families, and funds numerous scholarships. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for 14 years, and they have four children together. Recently, he earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is also a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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