Toxic Mold

The Home You’re Buying or Selling Developed Toxic Mold. Now What?

Your South Florida home is on the market and the contract is signed. Or perhaps you’ve found your dream house and can’t wait to close. Then mold is discovered to have invaded the home.

Probably nothing creates terror in a home on the real estate market as the sight of mold.

 While this living fungus can indeed contaminate a home and make its residents feel sick, discovering mold does not have to kill your deal—or your dream home. On the flip side, buyers can protect themselves from being stuck with a house that is severely infested with mold by taking one easy step. Read more

Clouds on Title

What Does It Mean to Have a Cloud on Your Home’s Title?

You’re excited to be selling your home. Or you found a fabulous house you want to buy. Then the closing attorney tells you there will be a delay, because a “cloud” was found on the title.

You inevitably ask yourself, what is a cloud on title?

A cloud on title is the term for a defect in the chain of ownership on a property. If there is a cloud, until it is fixed title underwriters will refuse to insure the new title. This typically means the seller can’t legally pass that title to the new buyer, and the buyer can’t own their new home. Read more

How Will Your Heirs Find Your Assets?

As recently as a few years ago, a probate attorney’s best advice after someone passed away was for the heirs to start checking the deceased person’s mail (after we offered our condolences, of course.) Over the course of a month, statements from all the accounts where the person kept their assets would flow in, so we would know how much the person had and where it was deposited.

Today, most banks, stock brokers, insurance policies, and other places where you keep your money send statements by email. It has therefore become much more challenging to corral a deceased person’s assets. Read more

What is Homestead

What is a Homestead?

Think of the word homestead and pioneering families heading west to settle the land likely come to mind. But in real estate, the word has a different meaning.

A homestead is your primary residence, which in many states is given an exemption from a portion of property taxes, or is even shielded from some liability. In the state of Florida, your homestead is also granted special treatment under probate law.

For your home to be designated as a homestead, it must be your primary residence. That means if you live in Florida only during the winter months, it can not be a homestead property.

A homestead designation doesn’t happen automatically. To qualify in any given year, you have to own the home as of January 1st of that year. Then you have to apply within the first few months to the county where you live, offering proof that you own the home and are a Florida resident. In Broward County, you can apply here. In Palm Beach county, apply here.

Here’s what having your home designated as a homestead in Florida will do for you:

  • Protects you from creditors. If someone sues you for a money judgment and you lose, you can be forced to sell your assets to pay the judgement. If your home has the designation of homestead, you cannot be forced to sell it. You also can’t be required to sell a homestead property to pay off other outstanding debts.
  • Gives you a break from a portion of your real estate taxes. A complicated formula is used to exempt a portion of your home’s value from property taxes, but most homeowners save hundreds or thousands of dollars each year.
  • Allows surviving spouse and minor children to have special treatment. When the person who owns a homestead dies in the state of Florida, the surviving spouse has legal rights to remain in the home, regardless of  what’s in the person’s will.
  • Shields the home from creditors during probate. After the homestead homeowner dies, creditors owed money by the estate cannot put a lien on the home.

Once you have a homestead designation, the county will continue to apply it each year. In the event you no longer quality for a homestead–say you buy another primary residence and use your former home as a rental unit–the law requires you to notify the property appraiser’s office by March 1st of that year to remove the exemption. If you don’t do that, you can be subjected to hefty penalties.

If you move from one Florida residence to another, it is crucial that you apply for a homestead exemption, if not immediately, at least within two years of buying the new home. That’s because Florida’s Portability Law allows owners to transfer savings from the state’s property-tax-lowering “Save Our Homes” benefit from one homestead property to another within a two-year-period. To qualify for that benefit, you have to submit a portability application along with your homestead application.

Having the Law Offices of Gary M. Landau by your side during each step in a real estate or probate matter helps insure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. The Law Office Of Gary Landau is rated 10 out of 10 by the legal website AVVO. For more information, call 954-979-6566 or email for a free consultation.

Florida Estate Planning Checklist

Florida Estate Planning Checklist

The new year is always a good time to take stock of your estate plans and be sure they are up to date. You’ll want to leave your affairs in the best shape possible so when the time inevitably comes (hopefully many years from now), your family will be financially protected.

Here is a quick estate planning checklist to get you started:

 

  1. Be sure you have all necessary documents, including a will, living will, healthcare power of attorney, and more. These items were discussed in my blog last new year’s, so I won’t go into detail about them here.

 

  1.  Look into buying life insurance. If you have a spouse, young children, or elderly parents you support, life insurance may be a good idea. Contact an agent or get quotes online from Esurance or other sites.

 

  1. Update your beneficiary forms. Some assets, including bank accounts and retirement plans, allow you to bypass the probate process after your death if you name a beneficiary on these accounts. The money then goes immediately to the person you have designated. You can similarly tell your broker to list a beneficiary on your stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts.

 

  1. Consider how you want to die. Most Americans don’t give that enough thought—leaving their loved ones to figure out how you want to spend your last months and days, and what type of ceremony you want after you’re gone. That’s why, in consultation with hospice experts, my firm created the free document My Last Emotional Wishes. This form does not replace a will or living will and is not a legally binding document. But it gives your family peace of mind that they’re acting as you would want them to. Download this free form at the bottom of the home page of my website.

 

  1. Protect your business. If you are the sole proprietor of a business, be sure to make a succession plan. Even if you have partners, a buyout agreement for them to pay your heirs for your portion should be in place.

 

  1. Make your final arrangements. Purchase a burial plot or cremation package, so that expense won’t fall to your heirs.

 

  1. Store all your documents carefully. Legal documents, from wills to funeral prepayment plans, should be carefully stored in a lock box or fireproof safe in your home. Your attorney can also store your legal documents in the office vault. Either way, it’s critical that you tell your close relatives where they can find all these important papers. Never store them in your bank’s safety deposit box; your heirs will not be able to access that box without a court order.

Contact the Law Offices of Gary M. Landau for a free consultation about your probate, real estate, or estate planning matters, by calling 954-979-6566 or emailing.