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Where should you probate the estate of a loved one who has passed away?

Thompson Mungo Firm Oct. 17, 2022

It can be complicated to figure out where to probate a loved one's estate, but it doesn't have to be. Ordinarily, probate should be established in the county where your loved one resides at the time of death. However, there are certain circumstances where it may be more appropriate to open an estate in a different state from the state of residence.

When a loved one dies with real property or other specific assets titled solely in their name or titled jointly in a manner that does not facilitate transfer to a joint owner by operation of law, there will be a need to probate their estate. This will require the appointment of an authorized individual to settle the affairs of the estate and make the appropriate distributions.

When figuring out where to probate an estate, whether in a state where probate is required or not, it's essential to know and determine the deceased person's estate assets. These assets can be either real property, tangible or intangible.

Tangible assets are assets that have physical existence. These assets can be seen, felt, and touched. These assets include real estate, land, cash, cars, furniture, and more. 

Intangible assets are assets that lack physical existence. These assets can't be seen or touched. This asset includes goodwill, copyright, patent, trademarks, bank or retirement accounts, and more.

When there isn't a clear place where these assets are located, or when they are stored in multiple locations, you'll need to figure out where to probate an estate or how to handle this best. If you're unsure where to probate the estate, we've put together the following scenarios to help you find the right place to open and probate the estate your deceased loved ones left you.

Scenario 1: If the decedent's estate comprises only intangible assets, probate may be opened in the county where the decedent lived. It is also worthwhile considering the need to probate this estate.

Scenario 2: If all the property is located in one county, you will probate all that property in the county where it is located.

Scenario 3: If the properties are located in one state but in different counties, they should be probated in the county where the decedent lived at the time of their death.

Initially, the probate process for real estate and other tangible properties takes place in the county where the property is physically located. However, there is an exception to this rule if the deceased person owned tangible assets or real properties in more than one county within the same state. So even if some of the decedent's tangible assets are in another county, the estate should be opened in the county where they lived.

Scenario 4:

a. If tangible and immovable properties like lands and real estate properties are located in different states, these properties will be probated where they are located. You might have to deal with separate probate proceedings in various locations.

b. If tangible and movable properties like cars and artworks are located in different states, these assets may need to be probated in the county where the decedent lived.

c. If the intangible assets are located in different states, these assets are probated in the county where the decedent lived at the time of their death.

If you want to learn more about probate, we highly recommend you speak with an attorney specializing in the area. The attorney will be able to help you determine whether or not a probate estate is needed. If required, they will also help you navigate the legal proceedings involved in establishing one. Call our law office today so we can help you avoid unnecessary headaches.