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Enhanced Life Estate Deed Disputes

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What Is an Enhanced Life Estate Deed?

An enhanced life estate deed is a special type of legal device that allows a person to transfer their property to a recipient (beneficiary) upon their death. In most cases, property must be transferred through the court probate process, which can be costly and can take some time. However, an enhanced life estate deed allows the transfer of property to occur while avoiding the probate process.

Enhanced life estate deeds are similar to regular life estate deeds in that the property owner retains ownership of the property until their death. However, enhanced life estate deeds have fewer restrictions and more benefits. For instance, the property owner can sell or profit from their property during their lifetime, and they can also remain qualified for certain benefits such as Medicaid.

Enhanced life estate deeds are also known by other names, such as “enhanced deeds” or “lady bird deeds.” Not all states allow enhanced life estate deeds.

What Are Some Common Disputes over Enhanced Life Estate Deeds?

As with any type of life estate deed, various legal issues can be connected with an enhanced life estate deed.  Some common estate disputes include:

  • Disputes regarding the property value (a property appraisal might be necessary)
  • Disputes regarding who beneficiary or beneficiaries are
  • Disputes over the rights of the property owner, such as whether they are allowed to sell the property before their death
  • Issues regarding state laws, as not all states allow enhanced deeds
  • Legal issues involving property taxes or property insurance, since some insurers may be reluctant to insure properties that have been transferred through an enhanced life estate deed

How Are Estate Disputes Resolved?

Life estate deed disputes can be difficult to resolve, especially in cases where the property owner is already deceased. In such cases, the property owner cannot be spoken to directly, and so remedies for a dispute may require a re-analysis of various documents that they left behind. Estate disputes can sometimes be resolved through:

  • Redrafting or rewording the overall estate plan according to the property owner’s intentions (this may be determined using other related documents or instructions)
  • Adjustments to the estate administration, such as choosing a different estate administrator
  • Reviewing the document to determine who the actual beneficiaries are
  • Redistributing the property to the appropriate recipient
  • Issuing damages awards for monetary losses caused by a breach, violation, or incorrect distribution

In many cases, a monetary damages award may be sufficient to reimburse a party for losses related to an enhanced life estate deed. In other cases, different remedies may apply, such as an injunction requiring the deed to be transferred immediately to a beneficiary.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Enhanced Life Estate Deed?

Enhanced life estate deeds are complex legal documents, and may be allowed only in some states. You may need to hire an estate lawyer if you need guidance or direction when it comes to an enhanced deed. Your attorney can help research the laws for you to determine whether an enhanced life estate deed is appropriate for your needs. Also, your lawyer can help when it comes to drafting and reviewing documents. If you need to appear in court or file a lawsuit, your attorney can guide you through that process as well.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 10-03-2016 09:17 PM PDT

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