Estate Tax

Should You Worry about the Estate Tax?

The estate tax currently affects only a tiny fraction of people in Florida. But even if you’re in its bullseye, there are ways to limit its effect

People who hate it call it the death tax. People who want to see it increase label it the Paris Hilton tax. But despite the intense passions, the estate tax actually plays a role in only a very tiny sliver of Florida probates.

Also called an inheritance tax, the estate tax is a levy on the transfer of a taxable estate from a deceased person to their heirs. It was created by federal law. Read more

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.