Avoiding ancillary probate if you own out-of-state property

On Behalf of | Aug 23, 2021 | Estate Planning |

One of the goals of estate planning for many people is avoiding having their estate (or much of it) go through probate. It can be a costly and time-consuming process for executors, and it can put information about your estate in the public domain for anyone who knows where to look for it.

If you own property outside of California, as many people in this area do, you likely also want to avoid what’s called “ancillary probate.” That’s a probate process is necessary if you own property in another state when you die – unless you take steps to avoid it. 

What kind of property might require ancillary probate?

Ancillary probate often involves real estate. For example, maybe you have a home on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. Perhaps you have a lakeside cabin in Washington. However, it can involve any property. Maybe you keep a boat or an RV at your home in Tahoe or Oregon, for example. 

Ancillary probate doesn’t have to be a complicated process. State probate courts are typically more willing to accept “foreign” (out-of-state) estate plans without a lot of questions than they are in-state plans. However, it can depend on the judge. It’s wise to let your executor know about the property, as they may have to travel out-of-state to handle it. 

The most commonly used options

There are ways to avoid the necessity for ancillary probate. These are basically the same ways you avoid having your estate go through any kind of probate. The three most common are the following:

  • Revocable living trust: This can be an excellent way to help your property (whether it’s in California or another state) pass easily to your designated successor trustee and then to your beneficiaries while avoiding probate.
  • Joint ownership: If you’re not married and wish to leave your out-of-state property to a specific individual, you can include them on the title. You might feel more comfortable doing this with a vehicle than you would a home. There’s another option.
  • Transfer-on-death (TOD) deed: This allows your property to transfer automatically to the person you designate upon your death.

If you have out-of-state property, it’s best to discuss it with your attorney as you’re drafting or modifying your estate plan. Don’t just assume that you’ll get around to selling it or moving it before you pass away. Be sure that you plan for it today.