Keep Your Dream Vacation Home From Becoming Your Family’s Worst Nightmare

September 26, 2022

Winter is coming, and with it, Florida’s annual influx of escapees from the frigid North. The snowbird has an enviable lifestyle, but one thing can ruffle their feathers. It may even make offspring want to abandon the nest they will inherit: an estate-snarling legal process called ancillary probate. It can be avoided, but only if you have your estate attorney take steps now to prevent it.

Ancillary probate strikes fear and loathing in the heart of every estate attorney, and it should terrify you too. It adds unnecessary time to the settlement of an estate, robbing beneficiaries of access to property they have been rightfully gifted. It adds expenses such as filing fees and even hiring additional attorneys. Worst, it adds stress and worries to a time when your loved ones should be peacefully recovering from your loss.

This harrowing ordeal can result if you leave only a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) to declare how you want your property distributed after your death. In that case, your estate will have to go into probate – a lengthy, expensive process in which a court, not the property owner, decides who gets what. Oftentimes this includes paying off creditors that come forward. The most common creditors (that Judges allow to get paid prior to the family receiving the inheritance) are hospital bills, ambulance bills, Medicaid bills, taxes, utility bills, homeowners’ associations, and credit cards.

The only way probate could get even more screwy is if you held property in more than one state. In that case, an ancillary probate process must be initiated in the other states where the property is held. They are necessary not just for real estate holdings but for any tangible property: bank accounts, jewelry, vehicles, boats and more. Imagine if three or four states are involved. That creates three or four times the legal bills, court process, delays, and…headaches.

You do not have to go through this painful ordeal. Our goal at OC Estate & Elder Law is to help families avoid probate by planning ahead. This is not as daunting as it seems; it can be done with a few phone calls and in a few weeks’ time. Our firm holds your hand through the entire process. Here is what you need to know about probate.

How to Avoid Ancillary Probates

The best time to avoid probate of any kind, whether single-state or ancillary multi-state, is before you pass away. Simple steps include having the property placed in a living trust, creating a deed that automatically transfers the property to a beneficiary upon your death, and adding a co-owner to the property.

If you are the estate holder (owner of the assets such as real estate), speak with the person you plan to handle your financial affairs once you pass away. The title for this person varies by state, so they will be called your successor trustee, personal representative, executor, or administrator. Make sure this trusted individual and your estate attorney are aware of any property you own in another state, so it can be protected from probate before it is too late.

If you are one of the fortunate snowbirds getting ready to fly south for the winter, be sure your moving-in list includes a talk with your estate attorney to prevent the need for ancillary probates. Contact us at (954) 251-0332 or to get started with a free phone consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian.