If there’s anything worse than having to go through probate, it’s having to do it more than once. That second (or third or fourth) probate is called ancillary probate.
If you live here in Southern California and own property in another state, that’s what the executor of your estate and your heirs will have to deal with in addition to domiciliary probate here in California if you don’t take steps that will let them avoid it.
When might ancillary probate be required?
Say that primary home is here in Westlake Village, but you also have a vacation home in Wyoming or maybe on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. Perhaps you still own a home back east that was left to you by your parents. The real estate — along with any other personal property you have there, like a car, boat, airplane, skis, furniture and more – typically need to go through probate in the state where they’re located.
It’s the executor’s job to initiate the ancillary probate proceeding. Since this could involve them having to travel and spend significantly more time than they had anticipated settling your estate, it’s important to let your executor (or anyone you’re considering as an executor) know about any property you own outside of California that will be part of your estate. When state probate courts are willing to cooperate, as they often are, this can make things somewhat easier for everyone. However, there’s no guarantee of that.
How can you avoid ancillary probate?
You can avoid the need for your executor and loved ones to deal with ancillary probate (or possibly any probate) with informed estate planning. For example, by placing your property in a living trust, it can pass directly to your beneficiaries. Another alternative, if you have one or more homes that you plan to leave to a family member, is to add that person to the title as a “joint tenant with right of survivorship” (JTWROS).
By avoiding probate proceedings, you can save your loved ones time, stress and money. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you.