A common question that I get from my estate planning clients after they move is:
Do I Need to Update My Will?
The answer is a typical "lawyer's answer" - it depends. Recently, I've had consultations with clients on both ends of the spectrum. Even though both of them moved, the answer for one of them was a "Yes, you need to update your will" and the other was "No, but we should do a codicil" for the estate plan.
If you're considering updating your estate plan, there are going to be two main ways you can do an update:
- A whole new estate plan
- Amendments to your documents
As a general rule of thumb, if you're moving within your state, chances are you only need to do amendments to your estate plan. But if you're moving to a completely different state, it's probably time to speak to an attorney in the new state to see if you need a new estate plan.
A Local Move - You Probably Don't Need a New Estate Plan
If you are just moving locally, chances are you don't need to do a whole new estate plan just because you have a new address. One of the primary reasons this question is so important is that your estate plan is governed by your local state's laws. So if you're staying in the same state, having a different address doesn't normally affect the validity of your estate plan documents. If you've used state forms for your healthcare documents, they are likely the same and may just need a short update with your new address in them so that there's no confusion if a healthcare provider has to review them.
One common change that I see that needs to be made is if you use a specific bequest to leave your property to someone. So for example, if you live at 123 Main Street and your will says that you are leaving 123 Main Street to your cousin Elizabeth, when you move to your new address and sell 123 Main Street, that bequest is no longer valid under your will. If you then intend that Elizabeth will inherit your new property at 234 Jones Street, you would need to update your will to reflect that. Rather than having to re-draft your entire estate plan, you can have a codicil drafted to reflect the update you'd like to make.
Many of my clients have made alternative plans for their residence, so as long as your home is not listed specifically in your estate plan documents, you may not even need to update those documents.
Moving to Another State - You Need to Talk to Someone
If you are moving to another state, there is a good chance that you should have part or all of your estate plan re-drafted. The reason I say "should" instead of "must" is that it happens all the time that people die with a will from a state that they no longer live in. Just because your will is from another state does not make that will invalid automatically. Your local probate court is equipped to handle an out-of-state will and probably handles them more than you would guess they do.
So, if you move to another state, my advise to my clients is always to talk to a local attorney in the new state to see what their opinion is about your estate plan documents. Many times, your will does not need to be updated, but there may be specific advantages to having a will drafted under your new state's laws. More frequently, your healthcare documents could benefit from being updated to the local form of the state where you now live. This makes it a little easier on the healthcare providers in the new state because they are then looking at the forms they are used to as opposed to forms from another state that they aren't familiar with.
Regardless of the answer, it's a good investment to spend a little time with an attorney in the new state to figure out whether or not you would benefit from a new estate plan.
If you've recently moved to Minnesota, New York, New Jersey or Connecticut and you aren't sure if you need a new estate plan, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session to discuss the best options for you and your family.