What if the decedent owned land in more than one state?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 19, 2018

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Probate is almost always undertaken first in the home state. The laws of the state in which the deceased was a permanent resident, or domiciliary, govern who will receive all the deceased’s personal property, wherever it is located, and all the deceased’s real property located within the state where the deceased lived. 

If the decedent owned out-of-state real property, and there is a will, the will is first admitted to probate in the home state. Then it usually must be submitted to probate in the other state or states in which the deceased owned real property. A separate probate procedure like this in another state is formally referred to as ancillary probate. Some states insist upon the appointment of what is known as a personal representative who is a local resident to administer the property located in that state.

If there is no will, probate is usually required in each state where the real property is situated, in addition to the home state. Each state has its own unique pattern for distributing property when there is no will (intestate succession). All personal property and the real property located in the home state would be distributed under that state’s laws of intestate succession. Real property located in other states would be distributed according to the intestate laws of the state where the property is located. The real estate in State A all might go to the spouse; real estate in State B might go 1/3 to the spouse, 1/3 to the son and 1/3 to the daughter; and real estate in State C might go 1/2 to the spouse and 1/4 each to the son and daughter.

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