Although the probate process can be simplified or foregone altogether, in some cases it can be enormously complex. In some instances, for example, individuals own property in multiple states. Since property generally must be probated in the state where it physically resides, this can force an estate to go through the probate process in multiple states. This is called ancillary probate.
You might not think that ancillary probate is that big of an issue, but it can actually significantly impact your estate. To start, multiple probate cases can wrack up considerable expenses that can eat away at the assets that were meant to be passed on to loved ones. Additionally, those individuals who pass away without an estate plan can have their assets distributed in accordance with multiple state laws, which don’t always specify the same order of inheritance. Therefore, an individual’s assets may pass down in a way that is counter to his or her wishes.
Fortunately, ancillary probate can be avoided. Perhaps the best way to do so is to place assets in a living trust. This allows the assets to bypass the probate process altogether. Another option is to simply share the title to out-of-state property with the intended beneficiary so that he or she will take ownership upon the other’s passing. It might even be feasible to relocate out-of-state property to avoid an ancillary probate action.
The probate process isn’t always a bad thing, but it can be expensive and leave an estate open to other issues. However, the great thing about estate planning is the fact that it can be custom-tailored to fit your needs. So, if you want to avoid probate altogether, or find a way to minimize its impact such as avoiding ancillary probate, then speaking with an estate planning attorney may be a wise move.