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Thu 1 Dec, 2022 # News

Florida Ancillary Estate Administration

Author: Heather K. Hudson, Member 
850-769-3434, hhudson@handfirm.com 

It is very common for residents of other states, often Georgia, Tennessee or Alabama, to own a vacation home in Florida while still keeping a permanent residence in their home state (also known as their “domicile”).  When an individual passes away owning real estate in more than one state, this can result in the family having to probate the estate twice.  First, in the domiciliary state, and second, in the ancillary state. 

If you are the administrator, executor, or personal representative of an estate in another state, or the estate attorney handling an estate outside of Florida for a non-resident of Florida, and you need assistance with opening an ancillary estate in Florida, our team of Florida probate and estate planning lawyers can help you through the process.

What is Ancillary Probate?

If you find yourself in the position of probating an estate outside of Florida for a decedent who owned real estate in Florida, you may also need to carry out an ancillary probate. This is because the domiciliary state’s probate court does not have the power to issue an order affecting Florida real estate. For the most part, Florida’s process for an ancillary probate mirrors the process of probating a Florida resident’s estate. 

What does an Ancillary Probate involve?

There are a few routes we can take when administering the estate of a non-Florida resident.  If the decedent passed testate (meaning they executed a valid will before their death) and the will is admitted to probate in the domiciliary state, we may be able to use the relatively simple process of petitioning to admit the foreign will to record.  That method is very efficient, in both cost and time.  If there is not a will admitted to probate in another state, a more involved proceeding will be required. That could be a summary administration or formal estate administration, depending upon the assets and circumstances.

How can I avoid Ancillary Probate in Florida?

If you currently own real property within the state of Florida and wish to avoid the burden on your family of probating your estate in multiple states, there are cost-efficient strategies to accomplish that goal. These typically involve setting up your ownership in a way that will allow your beneficiaries to take title to the property upon your death without the need for a court order. 

An efficient method is the use of an Enhanced Life Estate Deed, often called a “Lady Bird Deed,” which allows you to retain full ownership and control of the property during your lifetime and leaves the property to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death, without the need for probate.  Another option is to put your property into a revocable or irrevocable trust, which can be very efficient in the event that you already have an established trust, as part of your estate plan. 

Our team of Florida probate and estate planning lawyers is ready and willing to assist in both working through the ancillary probate process when needed, and implementing strategies to avoid ancillary probate in a way that complements your existing estate plan and individual needs.