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What’s in a Name? When It Comes to Your Deed, Everything.

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We all remember the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. It was a story of love, tragedy, and (SPOILER ALERT) a SERIOUS lack of communication. While tragic in the end, it’s a great story to recall around Valentine’s Day, and it’s one that can be used to help your customer make sure their story has a better outcome.

Sometimes even a star-crossed couple will make the largest decision of their lives – the decision to purchase a home. While many couples will pool their assets, get a joint mortgage, and take title together, sometimes that’s not possible or one spouse already owns a home before marriage. In pre-marriage ownership scenarios, if one spouse solely owned the home before the marriage, their new, non-owner spouse will need to sign a deed and/or mortgage on the property for the owner spouse to sell it or mortgage it – unless they get a divorce prior to the sale. (Hey, Romeo & Juliet WAS a tragedy after all!)

So, in Florida, even if a spouse is not going to be on the title or a promissory note to repay a mortgage, they still need to sign the deed when selling the property or getting a loan. That’s because, unlike the Capulets and Montagues, today’s couples have something that Romeo and Juliet didn’t – the Florida Constitution.

Article X, section 4, of the Florida Constitution, also known as the Homestead Exemption, is a powerful law that offers many benefits to Florida citizens. You may already be aware of the tax benefits of declaring your “homestead” that are outlined in section 6, but section 4 has some other, lesser known, and noteworthy protections, including:

  1. Exemption of Forced Sales, Even at Death
  2. Restrictions on Wills & Estates
  3. Rules on Alienation or the Voluntary Act of Disposing of a Property

Section 4 helps guarantee that a Florida homeowner cannot be forced to sell their home to repay a debtor in most situations outside of mortgage repayment, mechanical liens, and outstanding property taxes. It also allows tax protection when the couple sells their home and intends to use the profits to buy another home.

To protect as many citizens as possible under these laws, married couples are required to sign the deed to the property when they sell the home. This means that if the Capulets had ever convinced Juliet to leave the Montague she married, she could not have sold their home without Romeo knowing about it. Also, neither she nor Romeo could leave the home to a minor child in their will, without the other party waving at least a portion of their rights.

So, while we are sure that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, make sure your customers understand why both spouses’ name should be on any deed once married and stay tuned for more tips to help your customers to come as we move further into the year.

Until then, parting is such sweet sorrow…..