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Ancillary probate and out-of-state assets

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2023 | Estate Planning

Many Floridians have relocated here from states farther north. Some wait until their retirement years and make their winter or vacation home their permanent one. Others relocate with their company or simply on their own if they have the kind of job they can do anywhere.

If your full-time residence is now in Florida, you’ll want an estate plan that complies with Florida laws. But what if you still own assets in another state? Maybe you decided to rent out your condo in New York City or Washington, D.C. Perhaps you still have a few accounts at your previous local bank. What if you have a boat docked farther up the east coast that you use when you go back to visit?

What is ancillary probate?

Those assets can’t be dealt with in a Florida estate plan because they aren’t domiciled here. That means they may need to go through what’s called “ancillary probate” after you’re gone. Since most people take steps during their estate planning to avoid domiciliary probate – probate in their own state – they typically want to avoid ancillary probate as well.

Fortunately, even if these assets need to be handled via ancillary probate, that process typically isn’t as lengthy and complicated as domiciliary probate. As long as a Florida probate court accepts your estate plan as valid, most probate courts in other states will as well.

Avoiding ancillary probate

You can avoid ancillary probate by selling your out-of-state assets or moving them (if feasible) to Florida. You can also gift them to loved ones while you’re still alive – although you need to be careful about triggering gift taxes.

If you want to keep these assets, you can place them in a living trust. This allows them to avoid going through probate and transfer directly to the designated beneficiaries when you pass away.

Another option, at least for assets with titles and codified ownership like real estate, vehicles (including vessels) and bank accounts is to add your designated beneficiary as a co-owner or give them right of survivorship. These are two different things, so you need to consider those options carefully.

As with all estate planning decisions, it’s best to make them while you’re alive and well rather than postpone them. None of us can predict the future. Remember that you can change most estate planning decisions later if circumstances change. Sound estate planning requires sound legal guidance. When you’re dealing with assets in two or more states, that’s especially true.