Basic  Guide to Transferring Title To Florida Real Estate after Death

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If you need help with a probate in Florida, let visit Herbert L. Allen, Jr., P.A. provides personal attention to probate matters. I have experience probating estates in North Florida, Central Florida and South Florida. If you need probate help, please call me. I answer my own telephone and welcome your call. 321.779.1211. I have helped clients from other states. I urge you to compare legal fees and experience.

Attorney Herbert Allen’s Basic Guide to 

Transferring Title to Real Estate in Florida after Death

(Florida Probate Ancillary Administration Guide)

I am not giving legal advice here, so do not rely upon anything in this guide or this website for legal advice. I provide this guide to illustrate some things you need to consider if you need to transfer title to Florida real estate after the death of the owner. Different attorneys will have different ways of looking at title and this guide only presents a few basic considerations. I mention a free consultation below. I do not offer legal advice during that free consultation, but we have an opportunity to talk about important matters. After being retained with a written retainer agreement, I normally move through the steps below (in some order) to understand title to real property in Florida so that transferring title may be as smooth as I can make it.


Step One–Locate the Deed to the Real Estate in the Public Records

I usually start with locating the deed for the property in the public records. In Florida, look for the deed to the real estate in the county where the property is located. Each county has a Clerk of Court, and, in my experience,  their website will have a place to search the official records for deeds. You can learn many things by reviewing a deed. You can see the people named as Grantee(s) on the deed to see who owns the property based on that deed. Be careful, because that deed may not tell the whole story of ownership. The property may be homestead property, and that could change many things. You can also check the legal description. You might be surprised to find that the decedent owned properties you did not even know about when you search his name in the property records. If multiple names are on the deed as grantees, then you must see if a spouse survived the decedent. We also need to look and see if any co-owners have an interest in the property. Co-owners may be people, trusts, corporations, or many other things. If you begin to understand why an experienced attorney may be very helpful in understanding the information on the deed, then you may want to call 321.779.1211 for a free consultation. Also, different kinds of deeds pass different interests to different people. For example, a deed may create a simple or enhanced life estate in the property. Once you review the deed, then you can begin the process of understanding what interests were created by the deed.


Step Two–Review All the Paperwork concerning the Real Estate

Often the first things you find after a person passes away are the records and papers kept in the home, or in a safe deposit box. In Florida, gaining access to a safe deposit box may take a court order under some circumstances. As you review all the paperwork you have, you might discover  a will that directs the distribution of the real estate at issue. The will must meet certain legal requirements for wills for it to be valid in Florida. In some cases, Florida recognizes wills from other states. You may also discover a trust agreement. Likewise, trust agreements must be reviewed to be valid, and the real estate title should be examined to see if title was placed into the trust. Please remember that the deed itself may also create several different interests in different people. So, expert advice may be necessary to understand just what people have an interest in the real estate at issue. I have experience helping people evaluate wills and trusts, and examining different types of deeds, and if those deeds are legally sufficient to transfer any interest in the real property. Florida law requires that deeds transferring an interest in real property meet certain requirements, including witnesses and notarization. Some deeds, wills and trusts may be defective for a variety of reasons.


Step Three–Talk to the Family Members, Friends and Relatives

Family members, friends and relatives may be able to help you understand more about the real estate, will, or other documents at issue. You may hear about later wills, or later deeds, or property transfers from people. Such information can be very important. Likewise, in Florida, our State Constitution provides special rights and limitations for homestead property. In some cases, the rights of a surviving spouse may trump a deed or other instrument. Therefore, we need to understand who has legal rights to the property that may not appear in a deed. Homestead law in Florida can be very complex.


Step Four–Understand Liens, Mortgages and Encumbrances

In some instances, real estate may have one or more mortgages that have not been paid timely, or taxes that are not up to date. Any lien, mortgage, or encumbrance on the property should be carefully evaluated. Before you spend significant time, money and effort, you may want to be sure that transferring title to the property makes financial sense. If you need help understanding liens, mortgages and encumbrances, call 321.779.1211 for a free consultation.


Step Five–Consider Probate

If the owner of the real estate was the sole owner of the property, then we must examine the deed to see if probate will be required to transfer title. Please recall that some deeds pass title automatically. Also, in some cases title to homestead property may pass to spouses fairly simply. Even so, sometimes probate makes sense if you have creditors, judgments, or other claims on the property. An Order Determining Homestead Property from the probate court may benefit a spouse or lineal descendants tremendously when dealing with creditors. Also, a surviving spouse has certain legal rights that must be exercised within strict time limits. 

People who lived outside of Florida may have owned real estate in  Florida when they died. At times, they must open two probate cases: one out of state and one in Florida. The primary probate case takes place in the court where the decedent was domiciled. So, if they lived in Bronx, New York, then the Bronx Surrogate’s (Probate Court) would be the primary probate court (I do not practice law anywhere but Florida).  But then they would need to have a Florida probate case also, called an ancillary administration, if a case was already opened in New York. In some cases, we may be able to pass title in Florida using special probate procedures, like Summary Ancillary Administration, or Admitting a Foreign Will to Probate. Each type of Florida probate has its own special requirements and not every property can fit into every type of probate. Legal guidance from a Florida probate attorney may be very helpful, and in some cases, required by the Florida probate court. If you need such help, call 321.779.1211.



I am really just scratching the surface with the steps above. Other steps may be very important, which I have not mentioned. I want people to understand that real property often represents a major asset of an estate, and should be handled with care. I enjoy meeting people and helping them with their probate issues. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I spread His love and compassion for people going through very difficult times in their lives. I enjoy praying with clients of like faith.

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I answer my own telephone at 321.779.1211 and welcome your call. I do not provide legal advice during the free consultation, but we can discuss your concerns.

Herbert L. Allen, Jr., P.A.     Office: 1360 S. Patrick Dr., Suite 1A, Satellite Beach, FL 32937