Q: Our friend bought a condo five years ago and put her son's name on the deed just in case something happened to her. Now she wants to take his name off and he is refusing to cooperate. She paid for the condo, lives there and covers the expenses. What can she do? – David
A: In my experience, people will often include the names of their children on the deed to their home in an attempt to have the home pass on to their children without complication.
While this is a good sentiment, each family's situation is unique and what works well for one family may be disastrous for another. When your friend did this, she became a co-owner of the property with her son, and her son now has all the rights and responsibilities of any other owner, including the right to sell his half to a third party if he wanted to. Also, the specific wording of the deed is very important, and it may not even be set up properly to avoid probate.
If she is serious about removing him from ownership over his objection, she will need to sue him for "partition," a type of lawsuit where the judge divides ownership of a property by looking at how the property was purchased and maintained and deciding the fairest way to split things up. In a case like your friend's, she would probably be able to remove him in this matter, but only after much aggravation and expense.
There are better ways to avoid probate and leave your home to your kids, such as "life estate deeds" and "living trusts." These can be relatively simple affairs that allow the parents to maintain control while they are alive, while ensuring that the children get the property without going to court when their parents pass on.
However, these must be set up properly to work. An experienced lawyer should be consulted to find the option that is right for each family.
About The Writer
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.
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