Taking Your Estate Plan to a New State

March 8, 2021 Austin F DuBois

Moving is consistently ranked among the top stressors people can experience in a lifetime. Moves mean careful planning of everything from finding a new home to packing your belongings, finding new medical providers, transferring insurance coverage, all while saying goodbye to old friends and neighbors. At a time when there is so much on your mind, you do not want to neglect reviewing your estate plan.

Protecting your assets at every stage of life is important and keeping your estate plan up to date is the key. Milestones in life present perfect opportunities to review yours – having kids, buying a home, retirement. Doing it before an interstate move is important because certain related laws will vary from state to state.

A Good Estate Plan Travels Well
The good news is that having a well-executed estate plan in hand, puts you at an advantage even before the moving van leaves the driveway. The “meat” of any plan is its overall design with regard to your goals. If your plan has already been established with an experienced estate planning attorney, there should not be major adjustments required when you go to a new state, even if their laws are different. That means when you settle into your new locale, even though you should consult with an attorney local to that state, you won’t need to rush to do a whole new plan. And when it comes to finding a new lawyer in that state, an attorney active in national industry groups probably will have trusted contacts to refer you to.

There are a few things to pay attention to as you prepare an estate plan for a move, and which you should have reviewed once you move.

Look at Medicaid first.
The basis of most Medicaid laws is federal, but different states have different Medicaid laws beyond that. In fact, there are some states where Medicaid rules vary by county. Medical payments have a way of becoming prohibitive when there isn’t strong planning and budgeting. That’s why I suggest making an in-state review of your Medicaid situation step one after your move. You don’t want to find yourself caught unaware or unprepared when matters of your health are at hand.

Double check for state-specific documents.
Your estate plan includes all your most critical documents: your will and trust, beneficiary statements, your healthcare proxy, power of attorney, and others. These documents determine everything from how your assets are protected, to who will be able to speak for you in the unfortunate circumstance that you cannot speak for yourself.

These are more than documents; these are assurances put in place for yourself and your family. Take care of the documents that will take care of you and be sure to consult with an experienced attorney on state-specific documents.

Be sure about local estate tax laws.
Here in New York, you need to be a multi-multi-millionaire to be worried about getting hit with an estate tax, but in other states the number is much lower. Whatever your assets may be valued at, it is always advisable to check what the cap is in the state you are moving to. It may be more, or it may be less, but you always want to be certain that you are getting optimal protection from your estate plan. I also suggest making sure you know what the inheritance tax situation is in your new state.

Even the simplest estate plans can benefit from a close review after an interstate move. Even if you are planning for a big move down the road, now’s a good time to give your current estate plan a good look. Everything boils down to protecting a lifetime of assets, living on your terms and with peace of mind.