Florida Appellate Court Reviews Tenancy By the Entireties Real Property Ownership In Summary Probate Administration Dispute

In Ramos v. Estate of Ramos, an October 6, 2021 opinion, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal reviewed a dispute over the ownership of real property in Florida involving tenancy by the entireties ownership and the estates of two deceased spouses.

The Facts of Ramos v. Estate of Ramos

Eleida Ramos and Pedro Ramos married in 1975.  In 2013, they purchased a property.  The special warranty deed identifies them as:

Pedro Pablo Ramos and Eleida Farro Ramos; whose post office address is 14545 SW 2903rd Street, Homestead, Florida 33032; hereafter called the grantee.

Eleida died in 2016, and Pedro died in 2020.

Kenia Exposito is Eleida’s daughter from a previous marriage.  Kenia filed a petition for summary administration of her mother’s estate, seeking the property.  Kenia included Eleida’s 2012 will, devising “my share of the primary residence to my daughter, Kenia Elena Exposito, if she survives me…”

Maritza Ramos, the personal representative of Pedro’s estate, filed an objection to Kenia’s petition for summary administration.  Maritza argued that Eleida’s estate had no interest in the property because the deed conveyed the property to the married couple as tenants by the entireties, and therefore, when Eleida died, her undivided one-half interest passed to Pedro, and when Pedro died, his entire interest in the property went to his estate.

In response, Kenia moved to strike Maritza’s objection. Kenia argued that because the deed contained no language indicating an estate by the entireties, it must be assumed to be a tenancy in common.  Therefore, Eleida’s one-half interest must have passed to Eleida’s estate upon her death.

The Florida probate court denied Maritza’s objection, granted Eleida’s motion to strike, and entered summary judgment for Eleida’s estate.

Summary Administration in Florida Probate

Summary administration is available in Florida when the value of the decedent’s estate subject to administration is less than $75,000, or when the decedent has been dead for over two years.  Summary administration is often used in Florida to probate an estate when the decedent has a small estate, and to obtain an order of homestead if the decedent owned real property.  The homestead real property value is not included in the $75,000 amount.  Read the Complete Guide to Florida Homestead.

How Do You Establish Ownership Of Real Property as Tenancy By the Entireties In Florida?

Tenancy by the entireties real property ownership in Florida is automatically created by a conveyance to spouses, unless a contrary intent is shown.  In the case of real property ownership in Florida, the owners do not need to be described as husband and wife in the deed and their marital relationship does not need to be referred to in order to establish a tenancy by the entireties.

In Beal Bank, SSB v. Almand & Assoc., the Florida Supreme Court affirmed this principle, holding that where real property is acquired specifically in the name of a husband and wife, it is considered to be a “rule of construction that a tenancy by the entireties is created.”

Thus, “[a] conveyance to spouses as husband and wife creates an estate by the entirety in the absence of express language showing a contrary intent.”

Here, there was no language in the 2013 special warranty deed to indicate that the Ramoses did not intend to take title to the property as tenants by the entireties.  When Eleida died, her interest passed to Pedro.

The Florida appellate court quickly concluded that the property belonged in Pedro’s estate by operation of the principle of tenancy by the entireties, and reversed the order of the probate court.  This case provides a quick and clean overview of what should be the simple issue of tenancy by the entireties real property ownership in Florida.

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