For people dealing with an estate and the probate process in California, one of the trickiest elements can be ancillary probate. This is a special process that applies when the contents of an estate are spread across multiple states, such as having two houses in two different states.
The primary probate system processes estates through the legal system. Primary probate can vary in length and complexity depending on the size of the estate and the nature of the assets within it. Probate poses a significant risk to the value of the estate, because attorney’s fees and time in court can cut into the assets. Closing probate as quickly as possible is the best way to reduce costs. Ancillary probate can make the process longer, because in ancillary probate, the probate courts of multiple states must both process assets. When there is a home, car, or anything else with a title in a separate state, that state’s court handles probate for that asset.
This means twice as many lawyers involved and two courts to process assets, so probate gets more expensive. Courts often agree to work together on authorizing the will and the executor, but it still adds time and cost. It gets much worse if the deceased had no will, because then the states may have different rules about how to manage assets.
The best way to avoid probate is to use trusts, but that is not always possible. Ancillary probate is important to understand before it becomes a factor in settling an estate and starts to run up the costs, the paperwork, and the time in court required.