Ancillary probates for California assets

There are different situations that an ancillary probate can be required in California.  I have seen it spelled anciliary, ancillary, anciliary, ansiliary, and a whole bunch of other ways.  The California probate code spells it ANCILLARY so let’s assume that’s correct.

Today I want to speak specifically about situations where a California ancillary probate is required even though total assets in California are below the threshold that requires probate which currently $166,250.  How could this be?   I have had the situation arise a few times where big banks (who will remain nameless but one of them rhymes with Bells Cargo) require a California probate as they refuse to accept a California small estate affidavit when the decedent died outside of California and was a resident of a foreign country.  So even though the decedent at one had lived in California they were not California residents at death. Here’s a link to a small estate affidavit form if you need it.

So I was recently contacted by a young lady whose father was a resident of Mexico but had lived in California before moving to Mexico. He left behind approximately $100,000 in California banks with no named beneficiary or POD on them. Unfortunately they are requiring her to do a full probate. Luckily she is an only child and the case should be pretty efficient but still the statutory attorney fees for a $100,000 estate are $4,000 and I would expect about $1,500 in court costs as well. So her total costs of probate will be about 5.5% to clear title to these two banks. Of course this in a simple and straightforward case so I do not anticipate extraordinary fees developing.

There are of course other situations where a California ancillary probate comes up. The situations I can recall working on over the years:

  • Oregon resident with home in Sacramento County;
  • Washington resident with home in Placer County;
  • Virginia resident with bank account in Los Angeles;
  • Canadian citizen with real property in Folsom;
  • Maryland resident with bank in San Diego;
  • Texas resident with home at Lake Tahoe (Placer or El Dorado I don’t remember);
  • A citizen of Mexico with real estate in California;
  • A citizen of New Zealand with a bank account in San Diego;
  • Arizona resident with real estate in Lake County California.

The list goes on of course.  I would guess I have handled 25 or 30 ancillary probates over the past 25+ years. The western states and Mexico are the most common of course.

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