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Does where a loved one lived (or died) matter to their estate?

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2023 | Estate Planning |

It’s not at all uncommon for people to have multiple residences around the country. People may live in one state most of the year, then head to warmer territory and a second home in the winter. Or, they may own vacation homes that they use irregularly throughout the year.

Unfortunately, this can create some confusion with their estates when they pass away since the estate must be probated in the state where the decedent lived – and that’s not necessarily the same state where they died.

Establishing the deceased’s residence at the time of their death

In order to make sure the probate is handled in the proper jurisdiction, you need to determine which state counted as your loved one’s “residence” for all practical purposes. 

To decide where to file probate, you can look at any evidence that suggests which state the decedent truly called home, such as:

  • The state where their driver’s license or state ID was issued
  • Where they were registered to vote
  • The address they used on their taxes and other important documents
  • Which state they lived in the longest
  • Any evidence that indicated the deceased intended their latest relocation to be permanent

But, what about their real estate holdings in the non-residential state? Those will have to be handled through what is called ancillary probate since all real estate must be probated in the state where it exists. The rules for that process vary from state to state, which makes understanding which state has primacy over the estate critical.

If you’re unsure or the situation is just unclear, you may need to seek the court’s ruling on the issue before probate can proceed. Experienced legal guidance can help you get off on the right footing.