Question: My mother lives in her paid off home in Michigan but also owns real estate in other states as well. How would her Probate be handled?
When this type of situation happens you will usually have to open probate in each state. Probate is the process by which a court grants an executor, personal representative or administrator authority to deal with property owned by a deceased individual as directed in the individual’s will. The reason for needing to open a probate case in multiple states is that each state has separate probate laws. The domiciled state has jurisdiction over all real estate located within that state. The probate court located in the state the deceased party lived in as of the time of death is where the primary probate proceeding will occur.
The only part of the estate that the primary probate court does not have jurisdiction over is any real property (real estate) owned outside the state. Therefore, a separate probate proceeding called an “ancillary” probate must be opened to deal with out-of-state real estate in the state the property is located. If there is ownership of real estate in multiple states, then additional ancillary probate cases will need to be opened in each state. Without an ancillary estate opened for each state, then any deeds or other transfers of that real estate may not be binding and a cloud on title could result.
Most often the executor named in the last will and testament files all the required probate proceedings. The primary probate judge grants the executor authority over the money, accounts, personal property, business interests, etc., as well as the real property within that state. Then the executor would file for the ancillary probate where the out-of-state properties are located. The executor must apply to the probate court in each jurisdiction and request authority to handle the property within that state.
In Michigan, opening an ancillary probate is similar to opening a primary probate. The difference is that the Michigan probate court’s primary concern is the real estate owned in Michigan. The probate court will also need certified or exemplified copies of the probate court proceedings from the primary probate and any ancillary probate matters being handled in other states. As a result, you will want to open the primary probate before opening the ancillary probate.
Probate matters are very complex and take an experienced probate attorney to ensure your rights are protected and give you competent legal advice – especially when multiple states are involved due to the variance of laws in each state.
Written by Don L. Rosenberg, Attorney and Counselor, with the Law Firm of Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C. in Troy, Michigan.