Probate Law

What is Ancillary Probate and How Does It Impact You?

When a loved one passes on, the last thing many want to think about is how their family member’s estate will be settled according to the law. For most, it is reassuring to know that the Florida probate process is straightforward for a decedent who lived in Florida. A Florida court can easily dispose of property or other assets located in the state.  

However, what happens when the decedent owned property in Florida, but did not live in Florida?  In that case, a process called “ancillary probate” is necessary.

What is Ancillary Probate?

Ancillary probate is the probate process that is triggered when a decedent owned property in Florida, but was not a resident of the state.  Florida is, as you likely know, a destination state for the so-called “snow birds” who come to Florida in the winter months. Many of those out-of-state individuals purchase property in Florida so they can spend a good part of the year in the Sunshine State.  So, if a loved one was a resident of Delaware and owned a house in Florida, the property would need to go through an ancillary probate process. 

How Do I Initiate an Ancillary Probate Process?

The first step in any ancillary probate process is hiring a Florida probate attorney to go to court and begin the process. Additionally, the personal representative of the will in another state cannot act in Florida without being subject to a probate process in the state thus you should consult your attorney before a non-Florida personal representative takes any action related to Florida property or assets.

Who Qualifies as a Personal Representative And How Long Does The Process Take?

In Florida, only a blood relative or a Florida resident can act as the personal representative of a non-Florida resident’s estate.  Oftentimes, the decedent will have nominated a person to be the personal representative. But, in the event that the non-Florida personal representative does not qualify under Florida law, the majority of heirs with an interest in the Florida assets can send a letter to a personal representative in Florida who is willing and qualified to act. 

Florida law also provides for a personal representative’s compensation by statute though that compensation can be adjusted by a provision of the will or a contract between the personal representative and loved one prior to death. 

How Does the Ancillary Probate Process Work?

Once a personal representative is selected, the ancillary probate process is similar to a regular probate process.  The personal representative is bonded by a Florida court which then allows the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate after it issues letters of administration.  Those letters allow any real property such as single-family homes, apartments, undeveloped lots, vehicles, or any other tangible asset to be sold.  

The personal representative must also “publish,” or notify to the creditors of the estate, the estate’s status in addition to conducting an inventory for the estate within 60 days of being appointed as an personal representative.

Is There Only One Ancillary Probate Process?

There are two ways ancillary probate can function in Florida:  the first is through summary administration and the other is through formal probate administration. However, no matter the type of administration chosen, any ancillary probate process in Florida requires two original death certificates and a certified copy of the loved one’s last will and testament. 

Summary administration: for smaller estates, summary administration is often the preferred route due it its simplicity and the ease of accomplishing the objective or liquidating the estate.  While the advice and help of an attorney is necessary, this process is usually faster and more streamlined than the formal, slower moving probate process many are accustomed to.  For an estate to qualify for summary administration the following must all occur:

1. Any assets under ancillary probate must be worth $75,000 or less.
2. All heirs agree to whatever probate procedures are deemed necessary by the court.
3. All of the loved one’s bills have been paid thus there are no creditors or other interested third party who can lay claim to your loved one’s assets.
4. All of your loved one’s assets are declared so the court can make a final determination over the entire estate as it exists in Florida.

Formal probate administration:  The formal probate process is the more complicated process that many of us are familiar with which could be spurred by Florida assets over $75,000, a lack of agreement among heirs, debts originating from Florida, the need to resolve creditor claims, or other important topics which require a more thorough process to resolve the issues faced by the estate. 

Doane & Doane Can Help You with Ancillary Probate

Whether it is assistance to administer an estate, or assist an appointed personal representative, you should engage the help of the probate attorneys at Doane & Doane.  We can help you when you are curious about fundamentals of the question: What is ancillary probate?  

Florida fiduciaries seek the assistance of the attorneys of Doane & Doane, P.A. to administer and manage their trusts and estates frequently.  The founding partners of Doane & Doane are board-certified West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys.  With the additional advantage of certified public accountancy in their backgrounds, they present a unique combination of skills and experience which enables them to effectively settle, administer, and manage clients’ trusts and estates.

Overseeing an estate can be a time-consuming and complicated process. We help clients every step of the way. Our probate administrative services include:

1. Proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid
2. Identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property
3. Property appraisal
4. Supervising and arranging the estate’s debts and taxes
5. Distributing property as directed by a will
6. Transferring title and ownership of assets to the proper beneficiaries

In addition, the personal representative, executor, or executrix must follow Florida law to conclude the decedent’s affairs, including:

1. Giving the proper notices to proper parties
2. Collecting the decedent’s property
3. Receiving claims against the estate
4. Paying valid claims and disputing others
5. Distributing estate property according to the will or state law
6. Selling estate property to cover debts or allow for proper distribution, if necessary

Let us at Doane & Doane help serve as a personal representative.  Contact a Doane & Doane professional today by calling 561-656-0200.