What’s ancillary probate (and can you avoid it)?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Estate Administration & Probate |

People in the United States are very mobile, and it isn’t uncommon for a lot of people to maintain homes in more than one state – whether they’re seasonal residences, vacation spots or rental properties.

When you die, however, those out-of-state properties can be a hassle for your heir, because each state has its own system for the orderly transfer of a title from one owner to another – and that means separate probate procedures for each state where you have real property. 

That’s a hassle your heirs don’t need

Ancillary probate is any secondary probate in a state other than the deceased’s state of residence or “domiciliary” state. It’s necessary because your state court has no legal authority to transfer property outside of state lines to your beneficiaries or heirs. 

Since this can become costly and time-consuming, most people try to find ways to avoid it. Some possible options include:

  • Transfer-on-death deeds: These allow you to transfer real estate to your designated beneficiary at the moment of your death, bypassing probate entirely.
  • Living trusts: This is another effective way of bypassing ancillary probate. By placing your out-of-state property into a living trust, the assets can then be distributed according to your wishes.
  • Joint ownership: While this is something you have to consider very carefully, joint ownership with the right of survivorship ensures that the surviving co-owner automatically receives ownership of the property upon your death.

These are just a few examples of the possibilities. Exactly what is most appropriate for your situation may depend on the type of property you have in another state, which state is considered your state of residence, who you wish to inherit the property and other factors. Experienced legal guidance can make it easier to customize your estate plan to fit your needs.