A complex estate planning scenario arises when a person dies while owning real estate in multiple states. The decedent faces the prospect of probate proceedings in each jurisdiction with each having different laws and requirements. Many people use alternate estate planning arrangements to avoid probate because of the cost, delay, and lack of privacy associated with the probate process. Concerns over these issues are compounded when a party faces the prospect of probate in multiple states.
If you own property in New Jersey but live in another state, there are estate planning strategies that can circumvent the need to open probate in a remote state. The owner of the New Jersey property can title it in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, which results in the property passing automatically to the joint tenant(s) upon a co-owner’s death. The property can also be placed in a living trust to prevent the need for probate in New Jersey while residing in another state. Assets placed in a living trust can be distributed without the need for probate administration. Another option is to execute a transfer on death deed, which will also make probate unnecessary.
While these estate planning approaches can forestall the need to worry about the probate process in New Jersey, an ancillary probate must be used in the absence of proper estate planning. If your mother owns a home in New Jersey but has retired and established residency in California, she will need to open probate in both New Jersey and California if she has not used a probate avoidance strategy like those described above. The personal representative or executor of the estate must file an ancillary probate Court to initiate the transfer or sale of the New Jersey home.
Without the approval of the court through an ancillary probate proceeding, the executor or personal representative has no authority to sell or transfer the New Jersey real estate or otherwise close estate matters in New Jersey. The sale of estate property in New Jersey is complicated, so you should seek the expertise of a New Jersey estate planning lawyer. We are one of the most experienced and accomplished estate planning law firms in New Jersey with more than 30 years of experience. If you have estate planning or probate questions in NJ or NY, we invite you to call us now at (201) 690-1642 to set up a consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney in New Jersey or New York City.