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How to establish residency for estate administration?

Many residents in West Palm Beach divide their time each year between Florida and another state. That brings up some important estate planning questions. Namely, in what state, if not both, should an estate be opened if something were to happen to the asset holders? Of course, careful estate planning prior to one's passing will clearly determine the answer to this question, but sometimes planning is put off until it's too late, and then the family must figure out how to proceed.

As readers in Florida likely know, state law governs estate administration and probate, so residency is definitely an important factor. The common sense approach to determining residency is to look at where the asset holders spent most of their time, in Florida or elsewhere. If each year is basically divided right down the middle between two states, then the state where the decedent or incapacitated individual filed state income taxes is a good indicator of where the estate should be opened.

The matter might also be complicated by a person owning two homes, one in Florida and one in another state. In that case, the decedent may have filed for a homestead exemption on one of the residences, so the state where the exemption was filed is likely where the estate should be based.

Sometimes an ancillary estate is necessary when a person owns real estate in a place that isn't the home state. Dealing with an ancillary estate can be expensive, since ancillary estates are basically probate estates that are held in a location other than the decedent's home state. Having two probates means dealing with two courts.

What estate planners can do, however, is establish a trust to hold the title to both homes. A trust will, in many cases, prevent the trouble of dealing with numerous probate courts.

Source:, "ESTATE PLANNING: Questions of residency," Christopher Yugo, Jan. 22, 2012

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