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Settling an estate across long distances can lead to problems

by Legacy Plan
July 5, 2016

Many states have laws restricting who may serve as executors of probate estates. Some of these laws relate to allowing non-residents to serve. If your state has these types of laws and your preferred executors are residents of other states, this can create a possible problem. There are various ways of dealing with these logistical issues, such as using a revocable living trust to distribute your assets. Your estate planning attorney can help you decide which technique is the best way to deal with the long-distance logistical issues within your estate plan.

Today, people are more mobile than ever. While some people can trace their lineage four or five (or more) generations without traveling more than one or two counties away, this is rare. Whether you're seeking out a new job opportunity, relocating to be closer to loved ones or just seeking out that ideal retirement destination, people rarely spend their whole lives in one place. One aspect of life where this can present complication is in estate planning.

When you pass, someone must handle the task of settling your estate. For many people, the person (or people) they want to complete these duties are people close to them whom they trust completely. However, depending on how you've structured your estate plan and what your state's laws say, that option may not always be available.

Why is this? Because some states' laws restrict who can serve as an executor in charge of carrying out the instructions you placed in your will. For example, in Florida or Kentucky, you must either be a resident of that state, or else (as a non-resident) be related by blood, marriage or adoption in order to serve as an executor. In other states, non-resident executors can be forced to jump through legal hoops. In Illinois, for example, if your preferred executor is not an Illinois resident, he or she can be made to pay a bond in order to serve as your executor. The court can impose this requirement even if your will expressly said that a bond was not required!

In many states, like Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Missouri, Louisiana, Kansas and Arkansas (among others), you can have a non-resident serve as your executor, but he or she must go through the process of naming an agent who is a resident of that state. The agent is responsible for accepting legal papers regarding the estate. Even then, it is not a certainty. In some states — Wisconsin is one such example — the probate court can refuse to allow a non-resident to serve as your executor based on residency alone.

If the people you hold close and trust all live out of state, this can be a major hurdle. There are many ways around these complications. One way is by using a revocable living trust in your plan. In most situations, you can name anyone who is a mentally competent adult to serve as the successor trustee of your trust. Generally, the laws of any state contain no residency requirement about people serving as trustees of trusts.

How do I create an estate plan?

There are numerous options and scenarios to consider when developing an estate plan that protects your legacy and achieves your objectives, and important decisions should be made with the advice of qualified lawyers and financial experts. Membership with Legacy Assurance Plan provides members with valuable resources and guidance to develop comprehensive estate plans that take life's contingencies into consideration and leave a positive impact for generations to come. Legacy Assurance Plan members also receive peace of mind that a team of trusted, experienced professionals will assist them in developing legal, financial and tax strategies that will meet their needs today and for years to come through periodic reviews.

This article is published by Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at

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