Relocation & Your Estate Plan
Moving to a new state doesn’t always mean your estate plan is rendered invalid. While at times, it is more beneficial to begin anew with your estate plan in a new state, it is not your only option.
“Codicils” are changes you are able to make to your will during your lifetime, rather than creating an entirely new estate plan. A codicil is used to make minor changes to the details of your estate – not for recreating most of your will. In cases where your will needs serious overhaul, you’re better off starting from scratch.
You are advised to keep your estate plan up-to-date by revising it every few years, or after any major life changes are made. Relocation is a major change to your estate plan. New laws, new properties, and new restrictions must be considered.
Additionally, it is easier to create a new estate plan because you have already laid out all of your estate decisions. You are only required to reinstate those plans under the new laws of your relocation.
A revocable living trust is an estate document that does not face considerable changes from state to state. While you do have to reconsider property ownership within the trust, the stipulations of your trust are likely to remain the same.
Ownership of property acquired after marriage – including property within your trust – is equally owned by your spouse in community property states. Therefore, moving to a community property state requires you to reassess your assets, but otherwise leaves your trust untouched.
Last Will and Testament
Marital Property Definitions
As mentioned, your property ownership will vary by state. Many states are common law property states, meaning property that you purchase with sole ownership on the title or deed is your property, regardless of when it’s purchased. However, there are several states who honor the community property system. These states consider property acquired after marriage to be equally shared marital properties.
In community property states, you are still able to own separate property. In order to maintain separate estate property from your spouse, you must list only your name in the title or deed of ownership. Additionally, you may include property as marital property by adding your spouse’s name to the deed or title.
When you move from one of these states to another, you must consider how your property ownership changes based on the state’s laws. You cannot bequeath property that does not belong to you outright. Therefore, you might find that your will is invalid in regard to your estate divisions.
You are encouraged to look into your state’s laws on property ownership, or consult with a lawyer in your new state in order to revise your estate plans.
Qualified Estate Executors
As property ownership varies by state, the qualifications for your appointed estate executor also changes. Some states allow you to appoint an executor that is a non-relative, so long as that individual is qualified for the position. However, some states set guidelines on who you are able to appoint as your estate executor.
For example, in some states, your executor must be a blood-relative, such as a sibling, surviving parent, or an adult child. Therefore, you must revise your designated executors to meet your new state’s laws. Otherwise, the court may appoint executors to your estate who are suited for the position as defined by your new state.
Medical Directives & Power of Attorney
Your medical directive and power of attorney must be kept up to date. When you move, consult your new state’s guidelines on appointing agents for your medical directive and power of attorney.
In some states, you must appoint someone within your domiciliary state. Sometimes, your agent is required to be a blood-relative. You must consult your new state’s laws regarding your agents, or else these documents are considered invalid. Invalid agents leave the court to appoint new, state qualified agents to these positions upon your incapacity.
Witnesses, Signatures, & Format
Although you are not required to have witnesses to the signing of your will in some states, you may need them in others. Some states require witness testimonies of the validity of your will. Therefore, you must revise your will and create a new will that includes the signatures of your new witnesses.
Additionally, all states do not accept the same types of wills. For instance, creating a “holographic” will – or a will written by your hand, and signed by you – may suit your current state’s laws. However, it may be rendered invalid when you move. While you have created and signed the document yourself, the clerk of your new domicile may not accept that format as valid. Be sure to consult with a lawyer in your new state in order to create an acceptably formatted estate plan.
Establishing your estate plan takes time, money, and careful consideration that shouldn’t go to waste when you move. Make sure your estate plan is properly translated to meet your current domicile laws. Schedule a consultation with our estate planning attorney to ensure your estate plans are still valid.