How Does Ancillary Probate Administration Work in Florida?

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Many people’s parents or loved ones owned a winter home or timeshare in Florida, or went south for the winter. This cross-country lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular, but it can create issues when those loved ones die with property in more than one state. When that happens, an ancillary probate administration in the Florida probate courts can help you resolve the property issues and pass on that vacation property or homestead to the next generation.

What is Ancillary Probate?

Ancillary administration is a type of probate case filed in Florida after a person dies. It allows the Florida probate court to transfer ownership of in-state property held at the time of the person’s death to beneficiaries in other states. It is called “ancillary probate” because, in most cases, there is a primary probate or estate administration case in another state court where the person lived – called a domiciliary estate. If there was no other probate estate, the Florida case is technically called a “non-domiciliary probate,” but the process is the same.

Ancillary administration is especially common in Florida because of how many people are part-time residents or own second homes or timeshare properties in the state. This estate administration process helps the families of “snowbirds,” seasonal residents, and other cross-country travelers resolve the property issues that arise when a person dies owning property in more than one part of the country.

When to File Ancillary Probate in Florida

Ancillary probate is needed when your loved one owned real estate or other property in Florida but they died while living in another state. It allows the Florida property to be transferred to that person’s beneficiaries, either according to their Will, or by intestate succession, if they died without a valid Will or estate plan. Generally, you will not need to file an ancillary probate case to transfer a person’s bank account, retirement assets, or personal property. However, real estate must be resolved by the state in which the property is located. That means if your parents or loved ones bought a condo for the winters, you will need to file ancillary probate proceedings to transfer the title.

How Ancillary Administration Works

In many ways, ancillary administration works just like any other estate administration case. The Florida probate court will issue Letters of Administration to the personal representative named in the deceased’s Will, called the ancillary personal representative, or by selecting someone who is qualified to serve in that position. One challenge that many out-of-state heirs face is in finding a personal representative who is qualified to serve as a Florida personal representative. Nonresidents can sometimes be appointed, but more often a local attorney is named to oversee the administration instead. If the personal representative named in the Will does not qualify to serve in this state, the Florida courts will generally appoint a person chosen by that personal representative to act on their behalf.

If the Florida property had a net equity of less than $50,000 at the time your loved one died, and there is a valid Will controlling the distribution of the assets, the ancillary personal representative can choose to file for “summary” administration. This shortens the probate process and helps resolve the case faster. However, the ancillary personal representative will still need to:

  • File a copy of the Will and other documents from the domiciliary estate with the probate court
  • Send out a notice to creditors
  • Respond to any creditors’ statements of claim
  • Seek an order distributing the property to the appropriate heirs, beneficiaries, or to the domiciliary estate for further administration there

If the property is worth more than $50,000, or the property is passing by intestate succession, there will need to be a “full” ancillary administration. The duties are mostly the same, but there are additional supervision requirements, and you must file a formal inventory of the Florida property with the court.

Get Local Help Handling Multi-State Probate Administration

It is important to get local help when working with an ancillary probate issue. While probate administration is generally the same from one state to another, Florida has some unique laws that could benefit families if you take advantage of them, or hurt you if you ignore them. For example, Florida’s homestead property laws can protect that property from taxes and certain creditor claims. However, you must meet specific criteria and procedures to protect and transfer the homestead status along with the property.

Hiring a local Florida estate administration attorney to assist with your ancillary probate administration can also help you save on travel time and expenses. There are some events – such as the closing on a sale of the Florida property – where the ancillary personal representative must appear in person. In some of those cases, a Florida estate administration attorney can appear on your behalf. The law firm can also facilitate virtual appearances and video conferencing where available, such as for status hearings in probate court.

When a person dies owning property in multiple states, coordinating their estate administration can be a big job. At Harrison Estate Law, P.A., our experienced Florida estate and probate team can help you determine if an ancillary probate is necessary, designate a qualified personal representative in the state, and complete the Florida ancillary probate process. We will help you be sure your loved one’s Florida-related property is resolved properly, and make it easier for you and your family to get the full benefit of your loved one’s Florida home. Contact us here or call 352-559-9828 to get help today.

Categories: Probate