Q: Do i have to pay off my sibling's final judgement before I can sell the condo she transferred after her death?
My sister had cancer and prior to her death, she and I filed a Ladybird Deed in Florida for her condo that she owned. I am in the process of selling the condo but the title company found a final judgement against my sister from 2015. It is a small claims amount from a credit card company for less than 1300.00. The title company said I need to pay off the final judgement before they can complete the closing docs. There is no lien on the property and she has no other estate and there will be no probate. So, do I really need to pay them before I can sell?
A: That would depend on whether the judgment attached to the condo by a certified copy of the final judgment being recorded prior to the transfer. You should be having an attorney assisting you with the sale who would be doing a title search and issuing a commitment, or the buyer's attorney or title agent will be doing this. You need to have an attorney review the document and determine whether there are issues with the document and other documentation that may be necessary to complete the sale.
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If the condo was your sister's homestead from 2015 until her death, then no lien attaches to it other than a mortgage lien, a tax lien, or a mechanic's lien. So, if the property was her homestead, the judgment lien did not attach to the homestead property.
Here's the Constitutional provision, along with the implementing statute:
The Florida Constitution, Article X, Section 4., provides:
SECTION 4. Homestead; exemptions.—
(a) There shall be exempt from forced sale under process of any court, and no judgment, decree or execution shall be a lien thereon, except for the payment of taxes and assessments thereon, obligations contracted for the purchase, improvement or repair thereof, or obligations contracted for house, field or other labor performed on the realty, the following property owned by a natural person:
(1) a homestead, if located outside a municipality, to the extent of one hundred sixty acres of contiguous land and improvements thereon, which shall not be reduced without the owner’s consent by reason of subsequent inclusion in a municipality; or if located within a municipality, to the extent of one-half acre of contiguous land, upon which the exemption shall be limited to the residence of the owner or the owner’s family;
Florida Statutes, Section 222.01 provides the method for setting aside the real property that constitutes homestead.
If the condo was not her homestead, or if she abandoned it as her homestead before her death, then the judgment lien attaches and it must be paid before the real property can be transferred.
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