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Can where I die affect my will's validity in probate court?

Long ago, it was common for people to live their entire lives in the same small area, perhaps never travelling more than a few miles away. Today, of course, people tend to travel often, whether for business, vacation or to visit distant relatives.

It is also common for people to split their time between multiple states. For example, many people spend most of the year in one state, but live for several months in another state to avoid the chill and snow of winter.

One important legal matter that various states may treat differently is estate planning. For instance, the rules for properly executing a will may be quite different in State A, compared with State B.

However, differences like this do not automatically invalidate an estate plan, just because you moved to a new state after setting the plan up. As long as a will was valid according to the laws of the state where the testator had his or her permanent home at the time the will was executed, it will be valid in any state where the testator happens to pass away.

Say a person named T has her regular home in Ohio and a vacation home in Florida. If T dies while in Florida, it is possible that the personal representative will go through probate there. However, as long as T’s will is valid under Ohio law, the Florida probate court will accept the will, even if it would not be considered valid under Florida law.

Determining where the decedent’s “permanent residence” is may be tricky, and could be a point of controversy, if someone tries to challenge the will.

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