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The effect of moving across state lines on estate planning

Orange County residents who intend to move out of California, or those who contemplate a relocation to the Golden State, may find that their new address adds complexity to their estate planning. It is often best to revise a will, trust or other estate planning document when moving across state lines. This helps to avoid potential problems and may possibly be advantageous to the estate or trust.

One of the first steps will be to carefully go through trusts, wills and all other relevant documents to remove references to the laws of the prior state. This is especially important with health-related documents such as medical powers of attorney or living wills. Many end-of-life issues are governed at the state level, and there are some differences among the states. Most such documents should be easily portable from one state to another in the legal sense. However, the instructions will be implemented by local physicians and medical professionals. In order to avoid dangerous complications and obscure directives it is always best to give health care workers documentation that they are familiar with and know how to handle.

Another central issue affects married people. California is a community property state, in which all assets and property obtained during the marriage are considered to be jointly owned by both spouses. Most other states follow equitable distribution principles, so the chances are good that this may change in the move. It is critical to review all estate planning documents when moving between states with different laws about marital property.

An attorney can help guide relocating clients as they seek to responsibly manage their estate plans and end-of-life instructions. Whether moving to or from the state, familiarity with applicable law can be beneficial.

Source: The Spectrum, "Where do we begin estate planning? We need a list", Michael Baron, July 23, 2014

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