Because Florida is a warm winter “home away from home” for a lot of people who spend their summers in the north, it’s not unusual for someone who dies in another state to have property and other assets in this one.
Because probate laws and procedures vary between different jurisdictions, that kind of situation usually requires a supplementary probate process. This is called ancillary probate.
How does ancillary probate work?
Regardless of where someone died, their primary (“domiciliary”) probate takes place in their home state, while an ancillary probate process is needed in any other state where they have real estate or certain other kinds of personal property. This is the only way to legally transfer those assets to the rightful heirs.
For example, if someone who lives eight months of the year in New England has a winter home and a boat in this state, their primary probate proceeding would be in New England, but ancillary probate would be necessary here.
How do you get an ancillary probate started?
Typically, the first step in the process is to open the domiciliary probate so that a personal representative can be officially appointed by that jurisdiction’s court. Then that person would need to identify all other states where the decedent had real estate and other assets.
The deceased’s personal representative would then need to ask the local probate court for permission to act as the representative for the ancillary estate. If they don’t qualify to be the decedent’s personal representative or they don’t want to handle the ancillary estate (and many do not because of the travel commitment), they will generally need to find someone who is qualified to act in their stead.
If you’re trying to determine how to handle an ancillary estate here in Florida, you may want to consider obtaining local legal assistance.