Q&A with Loraine: Filing a Will

Question:  Where do I file my father’s Will?

Background:  My father recently died but he divided his time between his family home and Florida.

Answer from Loraine: Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father.

As for your question, what you need to know to determine where your father’s Will should be offered for probate is where your father had his principal residence at the time of his death. Sometimes, this is not an easy question to answer. However, consider these factors in making your decision:

  • Where was he registered to vote?
  • Where was his driver’s license issued (and where were any other licenses he may have held issued)?
  • Where was his job, if he had one?
  • Where did he most often stay?
  • Where was his vehicle registered?
  • Where were his memberships in such groups as a house of religious worship, social clubs, or professional groups
  • What address did he use to file his income taxes?

These answers should point you towards a particular state and county as his main residence. The Will should then be offered for probate in the appropriate court for that state and county. If he owned real estate in more than one state, you may also need to offer the Will again for probate in one or more of those other states. However, the first probate should generally be in the place where his principal residence was located (assuming that a probate is needed.)

I recommend having an attorney help you handle your father’s estate. Some states require the use of an attorney for a probate. While Georgia does not, having an experienced probate attorney assist you is generally a very good idea. The attorney can help you avoid time-consuming and expensive errors in the probate process.

Key Estate Planning Takeaway: Determining where a person’s Will should be offered for probate is not always easy. A myriad of factors influences the decision. To avoid redundant filings and expensive missteps where the location of a person’s principal residence is unclear or where the person owns property in multiple states, consult an experienced probate attorney who can help you consider all of the appropriate factors and who is familiar with the legal filing process and requirements of each location where probate appears to be needed.

This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers from Morgan & DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to commonly asked legal questions. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning.

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