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Ancillary probate in Florida: A guide for snowbirds

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | Probate

The climate in the northern part of the United States can be painfully cold in the winter – which is why a lot of affluent retirees who have homes in the north also spend part of their year in the Sunshine State.

If you’re among these “snowbirds” that always fly south for the winter, it’s important to understand what that may mean for your estate planning process and the (eventual) administration of your estate.

You may need to plan for ancillary probate

Probate is the legal process of administering an estate, which involves validating the deceased’ will, paying their final debts and distributing their remaining assets. An “ancillary probate” is basically a second probate process that comes into play when an individual owns property in a state other than their primary residence.

Ancillary probate is required because each state has unique rules on what is required during the probate process and how that process has to proceed. As a certified snowbird, you likely have assets in this state that require an ancillary probate process. These can include:

  • Real estate: Real estate is one of the biggest reasons for ancillary probate. It’s not unusual for snowbirds to have a condo or a vacation property that they own for their use when they’re here.
  • Local accounts: Bank accounts, investment portfolios and other financial assets held in Florida may also need ancillary probate if they do not have beneficiary designations or co-owners.
  • Personal property: The furniture, household goods, jewelry and other personal items you leave behind in this state may also need to go through ancillary probate to ensure that these assets smoothly transfer to their new owners.
  • Vehicles: You may keep boats, cars, side-by-sides, motorcycles or other vehicles in this state, and those may also need to pass through probate.

There are ways to avoid ancillary probate – but doing so requires careful estate planning. The use of trusts, joint ownership and enhanced life estate deeds, for example, can help make it easier for your beneficiaries and heirs. Seeking legal guidance can help you to sort out your options effectively and in ways that are tailored to your unique circumstances.