In a recently published report, Forbes Magazine highlights the importance of seeking guidance from an estate planning attorney after moving to a different state. The report follows a North Carolina woman who had recently moved from California. She had a living trust prepared while living in California, and was considering updating the document herself, without the assistance of an attorney.
In its article, the Forbes author notes that in today’s modern world some people are turning to books, software, or websites to create their own estate plans. Unfortunately, these do-it-yourself approaches may contain mistakes that layman would not catch, or may fail to contemplate scenarios that an experienced attorney could help properly plan for. These mistakes could be costly—perhaps even far more expensive than what it would have cost to seek out the guidance of an attorney when originally preparing the documents.
While all of the states in the U.S. will honor a will or living trust that is valid in the state where it was signed, most documents contain specific terms that were drafted to comply with the laws of the old state. These provisions may be problematic while living in your new state. While you may not need to draft an amendment to your trust or will, it is important to at least have the documents reviewed by an experienced professional that is licensed in your new state.
Forbes Magazine highlights a specific problem for people leaving community property states to live in states that are not. There are nine community property states, including California. While living in such a state, you are subject to the rules of community property. Anything you have going into the marriage or individually receive by gift or inheritance during the marriage is considered separate property. Mostly everything else is considered community property. While living in a community property state, you can draft an agreement that opts to treat specific property as community or separate. Similarly, when you move to a new state that does not have a community property system, you can create an agreement that outlines how the property should be characterized. Your choices may have a significant impact on your estate plan from an asset protection, estate tax, and income tax perspective.
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