One of the goals of many New Yorkers as they develop their estate plan is structuring it in a way that helps their loved ones avoid dealing with months of probate after they pass away. That can save them considerable time, money and stress. It also helps keep the settlement of your estate more private.
If you own property in a state other than New York, it’s important to be aware that your estate administrator(s) could also have to deal with something called “ancillary probate.” This is different from the domiciliary probate that could be required for your assets here in New York.
For example, say you have a vacation condo in the Florida Keys or a boat that you keep docked in Nantucket. Those would be subject to ancillary probate if you don’t take steps to avoid it. Typically, state probate courts cooperate with one another when ancillary probate is necessary. However, if you want to avoid it, there are steps you can take to do so.
You can avoid the need for ancillary probate
If you don’t want to sell or gift your out-of-state assets while you’re still alive or move them (if that’s feasible) to New York, you can avoid subjecting them to ancillary probate in much the same way you avoid domiciliary probate. Placing them in a living trust is a common method. You can also add the loved one you intend to have the property after you’re gone to the title either as a co-owner or in a way that transfers ownership to them upon your death. How you do that will depend in part on the laws of whatever state the asset is in.
If you have assets in another state, it’s important for you to make sure that your executor knows about them and is able and willing to do whatever travel may be necessary to deal with them. It’s also crucial to make sure before you add a loved one’s name to a title that they actually want the asset you intend to leave them. Communication with heirs and administrators, while you’re around, will help avoid unwanted surprises for them after you’re gone.