Two individuals asking for advice if their estate plan will still work if they move.An estate plan is a critical tool that helps families plan for the future of coming generations. However, sometimes things come up, requiring a family to modify their estate plan change to accommodate any recent changes in circumstances. Moving is one of those life events, after which, someone must take a close look at their estate plan to ensure that it is still functioning the way it originally did.

According to the United States Census Bureau, more than 31 million people moved during 2019. This amounts to nearly 10% of the total population. On average, a person moves more than ten times in their life. Thus, at some point, almost everyone will need to consider the impact that a move has on their estate plan. There are a few reasons why it is important to update an estate plan after a move. Every state has its own estate planning laws, and while these laws are similar in some respects, there are significant differences between states.

A comprehensive estate plan consists of several important tools, including wills, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, trusts, and more. While some of these documents will function the same across state lines, that is not always the case. For example, some states use different terminology to describe the same thing or may require the inclusion of specific language to make a document legally enforceable. Additionally, state intestate laws—which determine who inherits property after someone without a will passes on—are unique to each state. To ensure that your estate plan functions as you intended it to when you created it, it is important to review the plan with an experienced Jacksonville estate planning legal practitioner as soon as possible.

Below are a few essential things to consider when moving.

Update Your Will

Wills are the most common estate planning tools and are the cornerstone of any effective estate plan. Given the prevalence and importance of wills and the frequency with which people move, most states acknowledge out-of-state wills, even if the will was not drafted according to current estate planning laws in that state.

However, there are certain provisions in a will that the court may not give effect to if they contradict that state’s laws. For example, marital property is a key issue many couples must deal with when moving to a new state. States fall into two categories when it comes to determining how spouses own property that is acquired during a marriage. In a community property state, any assets accumulated during a marriage belong equally to each spouse. However, in a common law state, each spouse owns only those assets that are titled in their name. When moving from a common law state to a community property state, courts may treat all marital assets as belonging to both spouses, affecting how the court distributes assets in the event of one spouse’s death.

Another reason to update an estate plan after a move is that certain states restrict who can serve as a personal representative (or executor, in other states) of a deceased person’s estate. A personal representative is a person who administers the estate and ultimately distributes estate assets to beneficiaries. Florida is unique in that it requires a personal representative to be related to the deceased party or be a Florida resident. Thus, if someone’s will names a personal representative who is not related to them and does not live in-state, the court may need to appoint another party as the personal representative. Relatedly, even if state law allows an out-of-state person to serve as the personal representative, it is a good idea to have someone local fill this role.

Update Advance Medical Directive and Powers of Attorney

Man looking at his estate plan.An advance care directive is a document that outlines the type of medical treatment someone wants to receive in the event they are not able to make their own decisions. Most states will enforce an advance care directive created in another state. However, practically speaking, health care providers are likely only familiar with the forms used in the state in which they practice. Thus, when moving to a new state, it is a good idea to create an advance medical directive that healthcare professionals will recognize. Otherwise, family members may run into issues when attempting to carry out a loved one’s wishes.

Update Beneficiaries’ Addresses and Contact Information

When a family moves, there is a good chance that one or more of the listed beneficiaries on bank accounts, brokerage accounts, or retirement accounts moved as well. The institution holding the account assets is responsible for locating the beneficiary and transferring assets to their name. While failing to update an address will not disqualify a beneficiary from receiving these assets, it can make finding them much more difficult. This can delay a beneficiary from receiving assets and, in some cases, effectively shifts the burden onto the beneficiary to contact the financial institution.

For those who are moving, especially across state lines, updating an estate plan is a critical part of the move. However, many families fail to take these steps, due to the other stresses involved in the moving process. If you recently moved and wonder whether your estate plan will still function as intended, reach out to a Florida estate planning attorney for immediate assistance.

Reach Out to the Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorneys at Beller & Bustamante, P.L.

If you recently moved and have questions about how the move impacted your estate plan, contact the knowledgeable estate planning legal team at Beller & Bustamante, P.L. At our firm, we help families address all their estate planning needs and have done so for more than 30 years. We are widely recognized throughout South Florida as skilled problem solvers who work closely with our clients to develop effective and creative solutions to their problems. To learn more and to discuss your situation with one of our Florida estate planning legal team today, give us a call, or you can reach us through our online form.