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Can a Florida Probate Court divide up out-of-state property?

In Florida finding a person born in the state can seem to be harder than finding a non-native. Further, Florida is a popular destination for people sometimes called 'snowbirds,' who are usually retired and live part of the year here and the rest of it elsewhere. As a result, many individuals who die here may also own real property in other states or countries. So, when the will of such a person is probated here in Florida, can the probate judge direct a personal representative to convey out-of-state property to a beneficiary?

Let's take a look at a recent case involving probate litigation that may provide an answer. In a case called Brown v. Brown, which was decided last month by the Florida 4th District Court of Appeals (DCA), just such an issue was raised. In the case, a decedent whose will was being probated here owned real property both in Florida and in Georgia. The probate judge in the case issued an order dividing up all the property involved in the case.

However, one of the parties to the probate appealed the order, claiming that the probate judge did not have the authority to divide the Georgia property. The 4th DCA agreed, citing prior precedent, that a probate judge does not have jurisdiction over property located outside the state of Florida. To distribute the Georgia property, the personal representative would have to file an ancillary probate case in Georgia.

The type of jurisdiction over property involved in the probate court case is sometimes called 'in rem' jurisdiction. This is distinguished from 'in personam' jurisdiction, which is jurisdiction over a person. Both types can be important during probate litigation. Anyone with questions about how the probate administration process works may want to think about talking to a licensed Florida estate planning lawyer.

Source: Leagle.com, "Brown v. Brown," accessed Aug. 3, 2015

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