Moving to a new state doesn't mean that you have to scrap your estate plan and start over from scratch. However, it also does not mean that you should simply make your move, do nothing with your plan and cross your fingers that the variations in the laws between your old state and your new one won't cause you or your loved ones any problems. You should use the occasion of your move as an opportunity to discuss your plan with a qualified estate planning professional in your new state, who can help you decide what changes will help your plan continue to function at its best.
Today, more than ever, we live in a mobile society. Regardless of whether you're young and single, married with children at home or reached your “empty nest” years, you may encounter the possibility (or need) to move to a new state, whether for your job, your family or for that beachfront (or mountain top) retirement you've always wanted. If you do find yourself moving, and you've already put an estate plan into place, there are certain steps you should consider taking in order to make certain that your estate plan continues to function as well as it should.
You should talk to a legal professional in your new state about your will. Almost every estate plan includes a will and the laws governing wills can vary from state to state. Generally speaking, if your will was validly executed in your old home state, then your new home state would recognize it if you died and it were admitted to probate. However, the variations in the laws between your old home state and your new one may mean that your new state may interpret some provisions of your will differently than your old state. This is especially true if your old state is a “community property” state and the new one is not (or vice versa).
The differences in the law between the states may mean that your plan may benefit by having certain parts of your will revised. This can be done through a document called a “codicil.” In some cases, though, your lawyer may determine that it is easier and more beneficial simply to revoke the old will and replace it with a new one.
If your plan includes a revocable living trust, you should have it checked, too. Unlike wills, the laws governing living trusts do not vary as much from state to state, but there can still be issues that your move has created. If your trust requires updating to optimize it in light of your new state of residency, this is generally achieved by executing a trust amendment. It is much less likely that your move would necessitate revoking and replacing your trust, as opposed to your will.
Of course, your plan probably includes more than just your will and/or living trust. A complete plan generally also has documents like an advance directive and powers of attorney that plan for your incapacity. With these documents, many people benefit by obtaining new documents created in the new state. Even if your old documents are valid in your new state, you would want to give your loved ones the least stressful experience when they have to present these documents and deal with medical professionals. One way to expedite the process is to make sure that the documents your doctors see are ones with which they're familiar, so you'll want to give serious consideration to obtaining new versions of these documents when you move.