Many of our clients are Michigan residents, most of their assets are in Michigan, but they are “snowbirds” who own property in Florida or another winter destination. Most do not realize that if they do not have a trust, their estate may be subject to probate administration in both Michigan and the state that is the situs of their vacation property. This is because real estate held in an individual’s name is subject to probate in the state in which it is located.

For example, Rachel and Joe are Michigan residents and own a home in Lansing as well as a condominium in Orlando, Florida, as joint tenants. Joe dies, and the property in both states passes to Rachel by operation of law as the surviving joint tenant. However, Rachel is now the sole owner. If Rachel dies owning both of these properties in her sole name, it will be necessary to open a Michigan domiciliary estate and a Florida ancillary estate to probate her properties after her death. Opening an estate in Michigan and Florida incurs more cost and causes more delay than would have been necessary had Rachel planned to avoid probate in one or both states.

Let’s assume that after Joe’s death, Rachel instead set up a living trust and transferred the title of the Michigan and Florida real estate to her trust. At Rachel’s death, the successor trustee named in her trust would have been able to step in, take control of the properties, and dispose of them as necessary without probate administration in either state.

If you own property in more than one state, we suggest that you carefully consider your planning options to avoid the necessity of opening multiple probate estates in different states.

Our lawyers frequently work with clients who own properties in multiple states. Because many of those clients own property in Florida, two of our lawyers – Katie Lynwood and Ray Harris – are licensed in Florida as well as Michigan. However, even if you own property in a state other than Florida, our lawyers can help coordinate with out-of-state counsel to ensure out-of-state property is properly titled in your Michigan trust.