Klenk Law

Where will my Will be Probated if I own homes in more than one state?

Posted on Tue Mar 17, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: The Effect of Domicile on Probate Matters

Most Recently Updated July 10, 2018.

“Where will my Will be probated if I own homes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida?”

Probate-Fees

The Effect of Domicile on Probate Matters

The Effect of Domicile on Probate Matters

What is the impact of dividing your time between homes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida? For probate purposes, a person has one “legal” home – termed their domicile. Domicile is where you have your true, fixed, permanent home and principal establishment, and to which, whenever you leave, you have the intention of returning. The impact of the domicile location is widespread, from taxes to probate; domicile can affect many aspects of an estate plan.

Case Example:

One effect of domicile is the location a Will can be submitted for probate. A recent high profile case, involving Philadelphia billionaire couple Raymond and Ruth Perelman, decided by the Philadelphia County Orphans’ Court, analyzed this exact question. What state, Philadelphia or Florida, had jurisdiction to probate Mrs. Perelman’s Will?

Facts

Over the course of 15 years, her husband Raymond Perelman attempted to establish the couple’s domicile in Florida to avoid higher tax consequences in Pennsylvania. To promote this façade, Raymond established the couple’s nexus to Florida by them spending at least 6 months each year at the Florida home. They also voted in Florida, filed tax returns there and obtained Florida drivers licenses.

In the years before Ruth’s death, her relationship with Raymond began to fall apart. Publicized litigation brought by Raymond against their son was a catalyst for the deterioration. Eventually, this led Ruth to contemplate divorce and to drafting a secret Will in favor of her Son which left Raymond out.

When Ruth Perelman died Raymond fought the secret will, and among other issues, he argued that Florida not Philadelphia was the couples proper domicile for probate. In brief summary, below are the factors the court weighed in favor of Florida and Pennsylvania:

Factors Advanced in Favor of Florida

  • Owned home for 15+ years
  • Resided 6+ months out of the year
  • Filed for Florida Homestead Exemption
  • Obtained Florida Drivers License and Identification Card
  • Voted past 10 years in Florida
  • Claimed Florida as the principel residence on tax returns

Factors Advanced in Favor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • A long-term doctor-patient relationship at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Owned home for 40+ years
  • 95% of donations to Philadelphia based charities
  • Buried in Philadelphia
  • Had not left Philadelphia for 2+ years prior to death
  • Location of Trust
  • The knowledge that chosen executor incapable of serving in Florida

Ultimately, the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court ruled against Raymond. Philadelphia was Ruth’s domicile. Despite Raymond’s best attempt to paper their domicile in Florida, Ruth Perelman actions cemented her domicile in Philadelphia.

The Courts Reasoning:

Returning to the definition above, domicile is where you have your true, fixed, permanent home and principal establishment, and to which, whenever you leave, you have the intention of returning. Further, once domicile has been established, in order to change a person’s domicile there must be:

  1. Physical presence in the new location
  2. An intention to make it his or her home without any fixed or certain purpose to return to the former place of abode.

What was the Court’s point?

The court is telling us that actions speak louder than words. Spoken words of intention alone, including manipulating tax returns and voting records, are insufficient means of effectuating a change in domicile. Regardless of Raymond’s plan, Ruth had never truly taken the steps to become a Floridian. She never attempted to build a religious or medical connection in Florida; this caused her willingly to remain in Philadelphia during her final years to receive medical attention in the comfort of her lifelong friends.

The Philadelphia County Orphans’ Court looked to Mrs. Perelman’s recent actions, including no visits to Florida and testimony of her knowledge that her executor could not serve in Florida. All these factors weighed in favor of jurisdiction in Philadelphia. Finally, it was only the actions of her estranged husband that could have led to a Florida domicile, no specific actions of her own, or any actions at all over the past two years.

Tips and Advice

Even well thought-out, papered plans are susceptible to interpretation. If litigated, domicile is an intention versus action balancing test that can lead to uncertain results. The effects can have significant importance in estate administration. As evidenced by the Perelman’s, it is an important issue to consider if you have residences in two states.

More Probate Questions?

The effect of domicile on probate matters is only part of the overall probate process. By all means, if you wish to learn more, please read my more detailed article, The Probate Process All You Need to Know.

In Conclusion: (Insert Focus Keyword)

I hope that this article was helpful in explaining the effect of domicile on probate matters. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website. Therefore, please contact me and let me know how I did. Certainly, your comments and questions are welcome!

Let our Probate Lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. To begin with, call to speak to one of our experienced Probate Attorneys.  By all means, our lawyers are ready to answer your questions. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Ultimately our goal is to make the process as painless as possible!

Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do

Tags:

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Probate, Probate Attorney, Probate Lawyer

What Our clients are saying

Stars

Peter provided outstanding advice and preparation of a will and trusts.

Stars

Peter was excellent. He explained everything very clearly and is super friendly. My wife and I originally tried using a lawyer through group legal coverage, but unfortunately the old adage - "you get what you pay for" - applied to the other lawyer, and we decided to go with a real professional.

Stars

When it came down to picking the right attorney to handle my affairs, I knew right away it was this firm. From speaking to their secretary to speaking to Peter I knew I was making the right decision. After only a few mins Peter knew right away what I was looking for and handled all my questions professionally and even gave me great feedback that put my mind at ease. All that without even giving a single penny! So of course I hired him! So far so good...

Stars

AWESOME LAWYER! Peter Klenk is an exceptional attorney and a very nice person! Today I spoke with Peter about estate planning and was impressed with by his professionalism, cordiality, and attention to detail. I highly recommend Klenk Law for probates, wills, trusts, and other issues germane to estate planning!

Stars

Great friendly staff

Stars

Tremendous firm with bright, kind and tenacious people. Great representation for our family.

Stars

I'm totally satisfied with Klenk Law. Peter has a great legal mind with the personality of the guy next door.

Stars

Everything about my experience was a 10+! Peter and his staff made what I thought would be a difficult process easy and understandable. Every detail was handled correctly. No other firm could possibly do better than Klenk Law!

Stars

Peter and his staff are very responsive and always willing to help my clients and in a cost efficient manner.

Stars

Like another reviewer, I contacted Peter through his website using the free consultation link, for a question regarding PA inheritance taxes. The question was quite technical and difficult to explain, and the answer was nowhere to be found on the web. Peter grasped precisely what I was asking, and provided a clear, helpful response (with a touch of humor) the very next day.

Stars

Answered my question quickly and referred me to a colleague that could handle my problem

Stars

Mr. Klenk, quickly understood the circumstances presented and provided clear and concise advice. This advice provided me with the information I required to progress the case to my advantage.

Stars

Peter is excellent. I had a very complicated situation with my parents' estate planning and potential Medicaid needs. Peter was very knowledgeable in estate planning matters, able to define the best solution for the situation. Additionally, he was congenial and able to communicate effectively to my senior citizen parents the benefits of estate planning. He earned my trust, and more importantly, my parents' trust in a 45 mins consultation period. Highly recommend Peter. He is very easy to work with.

Stars

Peter recently gave a presentation about Wills & Trusts at my employer, and it was fantastic! He was extremely knowledgeable and provided valuable information to the group. People were very engaged and asked several questions, all of which Peter thoroughly answered. Personally, my husband and I have selected Peter to help us with our estate planning, and he has been very helpful in providing us with all of the information we need to provide a secure future for our family. Thank you, Peter!

Stars

Peter provided outstanding advice and preparation of a will and trusts.

Stars

Peter explained things in a way that was easy to understand. Everything was done in the time frame he said it. Could not have been better!

Stars

You & your staff are the best thank you for everything.

Stars

Peter and his staff handled all of our needs in a very professional and timely matter.

Stars

Peter Klenk made a complex subject understandable and allowed us to move forward with our estate planning. He was patient with our questions and creative in the solutions he proposed.

Stars

Peter explained a complex subject very clearly, helped us to decide the best approach to managing our estate and then made it very easy for us to execute the required documents. He will be a valuable resource for years to come and clearly has a great understanding of estate law that will lead to innovative solutions for us. I would unhesitatingly recommend him for estate planning.

Stars

Fantastic customer service. Very personable and most importantly they provide great explanations of what is required based on your individual needs. Highly recommend Klenk Law for anyone that needs to create a will and estate documents.

Stars

Always professional and very responsive. Everyone on the staff that I have worked with. I look forward to continuing our relationship.

Stars

Surprisingly easy

Stars

Affable...yet surprisingly cerebral estate planning atty. High marks all the way around.

Stars

Peter and his associates made things easy for us.

Let us put our expertise to work for you.

Free consultation within 24 hours.