Taking Title as a Married Couple

What is a marriage?  A contract.  You do not necessarily think about the legal ramifications at the wedding, but who inherits the house if one of you dies, or who gets the house in the case of a divorce?  You can fix that with a prenuptial agreement, you can fix the contract.    However, just because it is a contract does not mean it is enforceable.  Talk to an attorney and figure out how to make it enforceable. Getting married can change your life.  It can also change how you hold property title.  So you and your boyfriend bought a house together and took title as Tenants in Common.  The only unity there is the Unity of Possession.  Either one of you can sell your interest in the house without notice to the other owner.  But if you get married, neither of you can break the tenancy nor otherwise convey the property without consent of the spouse. Married couples hold title as Tenants by Entirety.  This includes the unities of Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship plus the Unity of Marriage, which subscribes to the legal fiction that a married couple is one entity.  You cannot disinherit your spouse.  Your wife […] Read More

Trick Title Question

Once upon a time, Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother found the perfect place to live—a house where Red Riding could care for her Granny without having to cross the woods.  Then the Little Red Hen found the same house, ideal for raising a whole flock of chicks and in a terrific school district.  Since each party was so interested in the property, Mr. Lamb sold it to them both as follows: At 9:00 a.m. Mr. Lamb went to Acme Acres Title Company and sold the property to Red Riding Hood and her Granny. Then at 10:00 a.m. Mr. Lamb arrived promptly at Bargain Property Buys Title Company and sold the property to Little Red. At 11:00 a.m. Acme Acres recorded the closing. At 12:00 a.m. Bargain Buys recorded the closing. Who owns the property? To be sure, Mr. Lamb was a wolf wrapped in velum, but which set of documents is a valid conveyance of the property title, the one signed first at Acme Acres?  Or the second closing at Bargain Property Buys? Answer:  The Little Red Hen now owns the property.  The buyer at the second closing owns the property because that buyer took title without knowledge that […] Read More

What Does the Fox Say in Real Estate Title?

Music video, “What Does the Fox Say?” was produced as an anti-hit, simply to promote a television show.  Created to fail, it accidentally went viral on YouTube, with over 500 million views to date.  Similarly, the fox in the case Pierson v. Post had an unexpected outcome. Pierson v. Post is from English Common Law and is the first case you read in law school regarding real estate law.  Who gets to keep the fox—the guy who chased it or the guy who stepped in and shot it?  Which created the property?    Post chased down the fox and Pierson shot it.  What did the fox say?  Nothing—the fox was dead and awarded to Post. Florida is a Notice State.  The last person to take ownership without notice is the owner. If Christopher Crook sells a piece of property at Title Company A, and then before it is recorded Mr. Crook sells the same property at Title Company B, who is the owner of the property?  Answer:  Buyer B.  The buyer at the second closing does not have Notice if Title A has not made it to the courthouse yet.  Once the deed is recorded, then Constructive Notice is given. The […] Read More

Property Tax Bill is Good News

Did you get a proposed property tax bill recently?  That is good news.  It means you have real estate and that according to the County, that asset still belongs to you.  Your property tax bill is notice to you that you still own what you think you own. If think you own property and do not receive a tax bill (or notice) in November, that is your Constructive Notice that something is going on with the ownership title to your property.  Consult an attorney to investigate, or you can go online to the property appraiser’s office for more information.  In St. Johns County, the link is http://www.sjctax.us/propertytax.aspx. Receiving the tax bill is good news…paying it may be a different story. Read More

Who Is on Title With You?

Who else is on your real estate title with you and what does that mean?  What if a co-owner dies or wants to sell their share?  It depends on your relationship.  The following are the three basic co-tenancies to hold real estate title in Florida and each of their unities. Tenancy in Common – The only unity is Unity of Possession.  Each person in the co-tenancy had the right to possess the property.  The parties can own the property in whatever percentages they want.  Any party can sell their interest to anyone without notice to the other owners. Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship – There are four unities: Unity of Possession (just like Tenancy in Common) Unity of Time (the co-tenants must take title at the same time) Unity of Title (they must take title on the same instrument) Unity of Interest (each party has the same percentage interest as the others) Any of the co-tenants can break the joint tenancy with rights of survivorship by conveying their interest to anyone else.   Tenancy by Entirety – This includes the unities of Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship plus the Unity of Marriage, which subscribes to the legal fiction that […] Read More

Inheritance of the Seven Kids

Once upon a time, a mother goat had seven kids.  After a home invasion (in which all seven were eaten by a wolf but rescued by their mother) they lived happily ever after.  The seven kids grew up and moved out, and then one day, the mother goat died. Her homestead passed to her grown kids (as there were no minor children or spouse).  While all seven kids were living when she died, two of them died shortly thereafter.  One of the remaining five was very stubborn.  He did not want to wait for all the legal paperwork; instead, he wanted to sell his mother’s house right away and get the money. The stubborn kid was impatient but he was fair.  Despite the death of his two siblings, the grown kid planned to divide the proceeds equally seven ways, benefitting the heirs of his two deceased siblings.  However, even though the money was going to go where it should have gone, it would have messed up the real estate title, rendering the property uninsurable, and therefore not sellable. So the stubborn kid had to go butt his head against the courthouse until his mother’s house went through probate. Depending on […] Read More

Property Tax Bill

It is November, did you get a tax bill on your real estate?  It is not due till late March (though the earlier you pay the less it costs), but it is your notice of ownership. “All owners of property shall be held to know that taxes are due and payable annually and are charged with the duty of ascertaining the amount of current and delinquent taxes and paying them before April 1st of the following year in which taxes are assessed.”  Florida Statutes 197.122. Florida is a Notice State.  That means ownership priority is given to the buyer who lacks constructive notice of earlier conflicting interests.  If Christopher Crook sells a piece of property at Title Company A, and then before it is recorded Mr. Crook sells the same property at Title Company B, who is the owner of the property?  Answer:  Buyer B.  The buyer at the second closing does not have Notice if Title A has not made it to the courthouse yet.  Once the deed is recorded, then Constructive Notice is given. Constructive Notice is a legal fiction that helps prioritize claims. If you own property and have not received a tax bill (or notice), that […] Read More

Deeds

Once upon a time there was a mayfly who wanted a piece of property, and he wanted it right away.  “I do not need one of them fancy deeds that a lawyer writes,” he said to himself.  “I will get me one of them ‘quick claim deeds,’ that is a fast deed—I can get it real fast!  Yeah, that is what I want.”  So he went off to the Internet and bought a form and filled it out and had the seller sign it—it was a Quit Claim Deed—and the seller’s liability toward the property ended right there. Mr. Mayfly had wanted to have the property not just to live there himself, but also to pass on as something of value to his heirs.  He built a house, raised a family, and died all in the same day—he had a congenital history of twenty-four hour lifecycles.  His intention, however, did not carry on very long.  In only a few short generations, it was discovered that the man who signed as the seller to the original Mr. Mayfly actually had no interest whatsoever in the property.  Oh he had taken Mayfly’s money all right, but the property was not rightfully his […] Read More