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Is My Will or Living Trust Valid if I Move to Another State?

Generally speaking, Yes. If your Last Will & Testament and/or Living Trust is valid and legally enforceable in one state, it most likely will be valid and enforceable in all states. However, there are certain things to review when you relocate to a new state, and your estate plan should be one of them.

Some things to consider when determining the validity of your estate plan post-move:

  • Are you married now, or were you married when you executed your estate plan?

  • Is the state you are moving from a community property state or a common law state?

  • Is the state you are moving to a community property state or a common law state?

There are ten states that follow community property laws: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In states that follow the community property law system, spouses share ownership of most property even if the property is titled in only one spouse's name. That means, one spouse typically does not have the legal authority to bequest the other spouse's ownership interest to anyone. In common law states, the property belongs to whichever spouse the property is titled to.

If you are not married, property ownership and estate planning is normally straightforward. The individual (testator/grantor) has the sole authority to leave property to whomever he or she chooses so long as there are no contractual limitations (e.g., co-ownership).

Married couples, on the other hand, must evaluate the laws of the state they are moving from compared to the laws of the state they are moving to. If the laws of both states are the same (e.g. both common law states), there should not be any reason to worry about property ownership rules.

Now, if the laws of the two states are different, there are additional things to take into consideration. Not all community property states handle marital property ownership the same. If property is acquired in a common law state, but the spouses later move to a community property state, California, Idaho, Washington, and Wisconsin treat the property as if it had been acquired in the community property state. This is known as "quasi-community property."

To the contrary, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas enforce the laws of the state from where the property was acquired. Louisiana has its own set of rules based off of French law.

If a couple moves from a community property state to a common law state, they will most likely each retain a fifty percent (50%) ownership interest in the property.

There are countless "what if" scenarios that are not addressed here, which may impact the validity of your estate plan after moving to another state. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you may need legal assistance, contact Glover Court Solutions & Estate Planning to discuss your options. We are happy to offer FREE, no obligation consultations and reviews of your current estate plans, and while, we cannot give legal advice, we can provide general legal information to help you navigate your legal matter(s). We also network with dozens of qualified attorneys throughout the Valley whom we would be happy to refer you to in the unlikely event we are unable to help.

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