I am a co-owner of a house with a friend. Is it better to leave my share in a will or do I have to write a deed? – RISMedia


(TNS) —Q: I own my house 50/50 with a friend. Neither of us have close relatives that we would like to leave our half of the house with. I read your article on owning property with other people. Would it be okay to add something to my will that says my friend will get my share of the house upon my death rather than drafting a new deed making us roommates with right of survivorship? – Evie

A: Unless you are married or have minor children, you can bequeath your part of the house to your friend in your will. But having you and your friend cede the house to yourselves as joint tenants with right of survivorship is a much better option for a number of reasons. The first reason is the cost. Making a will costs more than a deed. Add the cost of probate your will, and it becomes much more expensive. A survival certificate would automatically devolve on the surviving friend on the first death – no need to apply for probate. The deed method also avoids the problems with creditors that remain when you pass since the property goes to your friend outside the probate.

The deed and the wills can be changed at any time by you and your friend. However, since the proceedings are available for free in the public archives, you’ll know if your friend changes her mind and decides not to leave half of it with you. Wills are private and you wouldn’t know if they were changed before his death. Also, if one of your wills is lost or destroyed, your intentions may not be realized. This is not a problem with a deed as it is recorded in your county’s land registers. In most legal matters, such as estate planning, there are many ways to achieve your goals, but not all methods work as well or are as effective as others.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, commercial litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is president of the real estate section of the Broward County Bar Association and co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He consults frequently on general Florida real estate issues and trends with various companies across the country. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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