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Is a Florida “Lady Bird” Deed the Same as a Revocable Living Trust?


There are many ways for a person to transfer their property upon death without probate. Two of the more common methods used in Florida estate planning are revocable trusts and enhanced life estate deeds. And while these two methods share some characteristics, they are in fact different legal procedures with their own respective benefits and drawbacks.

“Lady Bird” Deeds

Enhanced life estate deeds–commonly referred to as “Lady Bird” deeds–is a non-probate method of transferring real estate. A life estate grants someone, usually the property owner, the right to continue living on the premises until they either die or decide to move. When either contingency occurs, title to the property automatically transfers to the beneficiary named in the life estate deed.

Here is a simple hypothetical example: James is a widower who owns his home. He signs a Lady Bird deed granting him the right to continue living in his home until his death. When James dies, the deed transfers the home to his adult daughter, Abby. This transfer occurs without the home needing to pass through probate.

Revocable Living Trusts

In a revocable living trust, a grantor transfers property to a trustee. The grantor and the trustee can be the same person. When the grantor dies, a successor trustee named in the trust documents assumes control over any remaining trust assets. Any post-death transfers made by the successor trustee are not part of the probate process.

So to revise our hypothetical example, say James created a revocable living trust. He then transferred his home to the trustee (himself). Upon James’ death, the trust names Abby as successor trustee and beneficiary.

So What Is the Difference?

A Lady Bird deed can only be used to transfer real property. It cannot be used to hold or transfer personal property or other non-real estate assets. A trust, in contrast, can essentially hold any kind of asset.

It is also important to note that only a handful of states recognize Lady Bird deeds. Florida is one of those states. But if a person wishes to accomplish a non-probate transfer of real estate outside of Florida, it may be necessary to create a revocable trust instead to hold and administer such properties.

Can You Change Your Mind?

With both a Lady Bird deed and a revocable trust, the grantor can still dispose of the subject property at any point during their lifetime. The beneficiary of the trust–or the “remainderman” in the case of a Lady Bird deed–do not have any rights in the property until the grantor dies.

Contact Attorney Mark R. Manceri Today

If you are involved in any legal dispute over the disposition of someone’s property–in or out of probate–it is best to consult with a qualified Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation lawyer. Contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today at 954-491-7099 to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.

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