States write and enforce most laws about probate, which settles happens to people’s property after they die. When they have possession are in multiple states, the rules generally come from the state where they primarily lived.

But real estate is a big exception. Consider that some of America’s largest landowners own many hundreds of thousands of acres in various states. States have ideas about how its ground is passed around.

A Georgian passes away with real property in other states

If your loved one was a Georgian and passed away with “real property” in other states, you will need to deal separately with probate in those states. This is called “ancillary probate.” It could be fairly simple or it just might become the big legal mess everyone worries about.

First, to be clear, “real property” is a legal term that often simply refers to real estate (the acreage and the buildings on it). However, it would also include any other land rights, like the right to use another person’s land for some purpose.

In any case, for real property, most people hire attorneys in each state to navigate the details of those states’ probate laws. However, while some states could give you a permanent headache, others usually go smoothly.

You may be the executor or executrix in Georgia, but some states will only work with executors matching their executor requirements, such as being related to the deceased. An executor might also have to post bond in the state to ensure the beneficiaries in case you prove untrustworthy.

If you work with a Georgia attorney on a deceased Georgian’s probate, they should be thinking ahead about your ancillary probate prospects in other states where your loved one had real property.

A non-Georgian passes away with real property in Georgia

If your loved one was not a Georgian but had property in Georgia, the process has a good chance of going smoothly.

Georgia’s laws generally allow the legal executor or administrator (whoever was appointed the deceased’s personal representative) to do their work in Georgia without going through ancillary probate proceedings here. You only have to be the person appointed by the other state and prove it with documentation. At that point, you can begin selling off the cabin, accessing the safe deposit box or whatever else you need to attend to here.

No problem? Well, there is always a chance for complications. For example, because you need to provide documentation that is well settled, you should start and complete the process in the other state first.

Selling or accessing property in Georgia might come with its own issues as could any sale, such as a neighbor disputing boundaries or the like. Some companies may only issue you a title, or insurance companies may only give you insurance, if you go through probate in Georgia, and you may need to make them comply with Georgia’s law.