What happens when a person passes away, and he/she owns property in another country? How is that property administered and transferred to the decedent’s heirs?

When a person dies, the first step is usually to open up a probate estate to administer the person’s property. The probate estate is created and opened in the court or probate office located in the jurisdiction which was the decedent’s primary physical residence (domicile) at the time of their death. The issue of the person’s domicile and how that is determined will be the subject of another post.

Once the probate estate is opened, the administrator of the estate, sometimes known as the “executor”, and sometimes by other names, is empowered to start administering the estate assets. Upon learning that the decedent owned property in another jurisdiction, the executor will have to take action to administer that property where it is located. This process is known as ancillary administration, also sometimes referred to as auxiliary administration.

Generally speaking, the process of ancillary/auxiliary administration will require the executor to contact the probate court or agency in the jurisdiction where the property is located, and invoke that court’s power to administer the assets. This process of necessity requires a great deal of cooperation between the main probate court, and the foreign court having jurisdiction over the assets located there in order to ensure that the property is administered and transferred as per the intent and desires of the decedent.

This office has experience in these types of cases, and we are able to assist you.