One of the factors we evaluate in helping people decide if they need a
trust based estate plan or a will based estate plan is whether they own
real estate in more than one state. This is an important factor because
with a will based plan, when you pass away, your family will have to open
a probate proceeding in each state in which you own real estate. This
multiple probate scenario is not necessary if the real estate is owned
in your trust.
For example, let’s say you own a home in Florida and a vacation home
in North Carolina. Florida is your home state, your state of domicile.
If you pass away with a will, rather than a trust, then your family will
start the probate process in Florida, your home state. However, the probate
courts in Florida will not be able to pass the title of your North Carolina
property to your beneficiaries. Your family will have to open a second
probate in North Carolina just to pass the title of that property to your
This two probate scenario can be avoided if instead of a will, you had
a trust and the North Carolina property was owned in your trust. In this
case, once you passed away, the trustee of your trust could coordinate
the passing of the title to your North Carolina property to your beneficiaries
without having to involve the probate court.
You can achieve the same result of avoiding a multiple probate scenario
if you choose instead of a trust to own your real estate using a title
status such as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. In that case,
the survivorship language makes the co-owner of the property the new sole
owner of the property at your death without having to go through probate.
Whether a trust or a will or even a title status is best depends upon your
individual situation, but if you own real estate in more than one state,
you may want to at least consider a trust when evaluating your estate