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If you have no trust into which you have titled your property and you personally own real estate in more than one state when you die, your heirs must open probate proceedings in each state where you have real estate. The law of the state in which real estate is located, governs the title to that real estate in most cases.  For that reason when you die owning real estate in more than one state, your heirs must go to that state to get title to that property.

However, before they can even approach a state other than where you were domiciled for assistance, they must first open your estate in your domicile. Your domicile is your primary place of residence.  It is not only where you live most of the time, but may include where you vote, pay taxes, have your driving license, etc. So if, for example, you are domiciled in Washington, DC and own property in South Carolina, your heirs must first file a probate petition and open an estate in Washington, DC.  (See article about Probate herein.) After opening the estate in your domicile, then, they must open what is called an “ancillary probate” in South Carolina.  Only then can they begin the process of getting title transferred to them of the real estate in South Carolina. 

All of this can be simplified with a Trust.  A properly prepared and funded trust (see article about “Funding your Trust”) will avoid the necessity of these expensive and time-consuming probate procedures.  Once your Trust has been properly prepared and executed, your lawyer should prepare or have prepared deeds to all of your real estate you wish governed by the trust. These deeds should transfers the title from your individual name to the “Trustee” of your trust. These deeds should be properly recorded in each state.

If your real estate has been titled in the name of the Trustee of your trust, (and usually you are your own “Trustee”), at your death your Successor Trustee is empowered to transfer the real estate as you direct, without having to go through probate and without having to seek the assistance of any court, either in your domicile or in the state where the real estate is located.

This power of a trust is a great money saver for people who own property in different states!
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