What is Ancillary Probate?

A loved one who passes away with money or property leaves behind an “estate” to the surviving family. The process of opening the estate and honoring the loved one’s wishes is called probate. Probate begins by opening the estate and appointing an estate representative. The estate is always opened in the county where the person resided at the time of passing. In Pennsylvania, the proceeding is started in the Register of Wills of the county of residence.


A common roadblock occurs when the deceased owned real estate located in another state. For example, it is common for a Florida resident to pass with a second home in Pennsylvania. Family members often assume that the Pennsylvania property can be sold or transferred once probate is opened in Florida. The problem is that the Florida probate court only has jurisdiction to handle the Florida assets. But any real estate located in Pennsylvania falls within Pennsylvania’s jurisdiction. This means that the Florida proceedings cannot handle the deceased’s real estate in Pennsylvania.


Ancillary probate is important because real estate cannot be sold or transferred until an estate is opened. Even if an estate is opened in the county of passing, the ancillary estate is still required to transfer the out of state property.


How Does Ancillary Probate Solve this Problem?


Ancillary probate is a special type of probate which is opened in a second state when the deceased owned out of state property. In the above case, the Pennsylvania probate would be opened as the ancillary probate with a primary probate opened in Florida. Normally, the primary probate is opened first. It is important to open the primary estate as soon as possible because the ancillary proceeding cannot begin until Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration are issued on the primary estate.


It is very important for the estate executor to handle the ancillary probate proceedings with care. Pennsylvania requires the filing of a complex Inheritance Tax Return for ancillary probate. The information reported on the tax return and the calculation of taxes and deductions are greatly affected by two separate probate proceedings. The consequences for mistakes can be costly. Estate representatives can always be held personally liable for any mistakes in estate administration.


As a probate law firm for estate executors, we help settle estates efficiently and reduce stress. If you know someone faced with a probate process or roadblocks to an estate property sale, please have them contact us for a free evaluation at:


Phone: (215) 918-4242 

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If you are not quite ready for a consultation, download our probate handbook HERE. We’ll send you helpful probate guides and resources so you know how to handle the estate.