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Author: Brenton McWilliams

What is an Ancillary Estate in Alabama?

An ancillary estate is an estate in Alabama that is started after the commencement of a primary estate administration in another state. For example, if a resident of another state dies in their state of residence while owning real estate in Alabama, their executor may file an estate case in the deceased person’s state of residence and then file a separate ancillary estate in the county where that person owns real estate in Alabama.

Why is an Ancillary Estate Necessary?

For each state, probate jurisdiction is limited to property within the state. If the deceased person’s assets are “probate property,” property that transfers by will or through an intestate estate, then an estate administration will need to be filed in each state where that property is located. The issue most commonly comes up with real estate due to the stringent titling aspects of real estate and the fact that real estate is an immoveable asset, it cannot be moved from state to state.

Since the ancillary estate is the second to be filed, it can piggyback off the primary estate to simply some of the formal processes involved with filing an estate. For a testate estate, the will can be proved by using a procedure where the court in Alabama will recognize the actions taken to admit the will to probate in another state and, then, admit the will to probate in Alabama based on the action of the court in the other state. This can be especially useful where the will is not self-proving or there was some dispute over the will such as a will contest or action to set aside the will. Rather than re-litigating the issues with the will in Alabama, the probate court in Alabama accepts the will based on the other jurisdiction’s acceptance of the will to probate.

For an intestate estate, the general rule in Alabama is that an out of state resident may not serve as the administrator of the estate. However, for an intestate estate in Alabama which is ancillary to an intestate estate administration in another state, an out of state resident may be appointed as an administrator of the Alabama estate if the out of state resident was already appointed as the administrator (granted letters of administration) in the other state.   

Is There a Time Limit to File an Ancillary Estate Administration in Alabama?

For testate estates, there is sort of a deadline for an ancillary estate administration in Alabama. For a will to be effective and recognized in Alabama, it must be filed within five years after the death of the person making the will, the testator. This five year rule does not apply to an ancillary estate where an Alabama probate court is admitting the will to probate based on the admission of the will to probate in another state, unless the will was admitted to probate in the other state more than five years after the death of the testator.

In some other states, there is no time limit to probate a will or a time limit longer than Alabama’s five years. If the will is admitted to probate in another state more than five years after the death of the testator, it is most likely not going to be recognized in Alabama based on the other state’s admission to probate. In summary, for a will to be effective in an ancillary estate in Alabama, it must be admitted to probate in Alabama or some other state within five years of the death of the testator.

If you have questions about estate administration in Alabama including an ancillary estate, please call me at (251) 215-9275 or write me on the contact page to schedule an appointment to discuss how I can help.