Americans today has never been more mobile. The reasons vary, but a move across state lines could be motivated by lower taxes, better job prospects, warmer weather or a desire to be closer to one’s grandchildren. In any case, moving to a different state often requires updating estate planning documents, as each state has its own laws governing items like wills, trusts, and advance directives.
If you already have a comprehensive estate plan, then starting from scratch may not be necessary, although it will depend on your circumstances. For example, if it has been more than three years since the last time your estate plan was revised, or if major changes in your family have occurred such as a marriage, divorce or death then it may be a good idea to revamp your estate documents regardless of whether you have moved or not. Updating them at the beginning of a new year can also give you a head start on the year to come.
Something to keep in mind is that all fifty states have different laws governing documents such as wills. Many are similar, and a valid will prepared in your previous state of residence could possibly be valid in your new state of residence. States can differ on key matters, however, such as witnesses to will signings, disinheriting children, marriage and divorce.
For example, states like Florida require the personal representative of a will to be related by blood or to be a Florida resident. This is someone named in a will who is responsible for collecting the property of the deceased, paying their debts and taxes, and distributing what’s left to those named accordingly in the will. If you recently moved to the Sunshine State and have someone from your previous state listed as your personal representative, a Florida probate court may not allow him or her to serve. Updating your documents for changes like these may be something to tackle in the new year.
Placing your assets in a revocable trust is another option. Revocable trusts can help avoid probate, and they have an increased likelihood of being valid in any state. If you don’t have a revocable trust, you may want to consider the advantages upon revisiting your existing estate plan with your attorney.
Perhaps, most importantly, is ensuring your advance directives, such as a durable power of attorney, are valid in the new year. This can ensure that, in the event of a crisis, you have a decision maker who is able to act on your behalf.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Do not wait to contact us to schedule a meeting. We look forward to seeing you now and in the new year!