The Listen to Lawrence Letter: Do I have to probate property in three different states?

April 13, 2022
Dear Clients and Friends:
Sometimes avoiding probate makes sense, like in the case of this client:
I am 82. I love your questions & answers. They are so informative. I have had my head in the sand for years now because I have property in 3 states, NY, FL, & CT.  I don’t want probate in 3 states. I have a basic will with no property listed because it is very old and I did it before I owned anything.  The CT property is a rental that has a restaurant on it that I inherited & I am working off a mortgage it had on it and the bank is not very informative about how or if I can do this. Can you help me? Thank you.
Probate gets a bad rap. I for one think probate is a simple, inexpensive, and timely process…that is, until it is not. Probate is the process of making your will good through the court system. So many people think that if you have a will then you avoid probate. Quite the opposite is true. If you have a will and you need to use it, then you must probate it. Usually this is no big deal and the expense of avoiding probate is close to the expense of going through probate so why bother?
Because sometimes the cost and timing of probate can be extensive. The question above highlights one of the most common examples when I advise my clients to avoid probate. You see, the law requires you to go to probate in every state where you own real estate. Yikes! That means probate in three states for this client. That means three sets of attorney fees and filing costs. So, the bottom line is that I usually advise that you avoid probate when you also have real estate outside New York.
How do we usually accomplish this? The typical tool in the toolshed to avoid probate in this situation is a REVOCABLE TRUST.  You can be the Grantor and Trustee of your own trust. You would then sign new deeds to all of your properties transferring them into the name of your trust. Upon your death, the successor trustee will simply transfer the properties to your named beneficiaries all without probate in all three states. You still have to make sure that you avoid probate on your other assets but you get the idea. The fact that a bank has a mortgage on one or more of the properties is irrelevant.
So the answer to the client’s question above is YES, I can help you. Come in and learn about a REVOCABLE TRUST.
I hope this helps! Please forward this information to your friends and relatives to share these informative answers to some very commonly asked questions.
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Until next time…
peace, health and happiness,
Lawrence Eric Davidow