Gentreo Life Events: What to Do When You Move to a New State

woman making notes while packing moving boxes

There’s a lot to do when you move to a new state: Finding a new job, buying a new home, getting your kids into a new school. The last thing you may think about is your estate plan. Most people believe it just automatically transfers to wherever they go. That’s not exactly true. Failing to update your estate plan to meet the laws of your new home state can result in quite a surprise – and not a good one – especially when you need it in the time of a crisis. We’re going to take a look at what you need to do when you move to another state.

Moving to a New State – What I Need to Do List

Moving to a new state is one of those life inflection points. Some see it as a fresh start. It can be exciting and a little scary at the same time. Having everything in order will help you settle in a little quicker. Here’s some things you need to do:

Transfer your driver's license

You must go to your new state’s DMV to transfer your driver’s license. You will have to show proof of your new address and identification.

Update your vehicle registration

Also at your new state’s DMV, you will need to provide proof of the vehicle’s ownership and insurance.

Notify the post office of your new address

Before moving, notify your current post office of the address where you’re moving, and set up a USPS change of address.

Change your address on your financial accounts

If you have online accounts, you can easily change your address. Otherwise, you will need to notify your creditors and financial institutions of your new home address. If you subscribe to publications, don’t forget to notify them, too!

Register to vote

Go to your new city or town hall to register to vote. You can also update your voter registration when you change your address with USPS, or register to vote with Vote America.

Update your estate plan

This is the perfect time to review and update your estate plan. It needs to comply with your state’s laws to be valid. For example, if you have assets in different states, you may have to amend your Will, so it reflects that state’s regulations.

What Happens to My Estate Plan When I Move to Another State?

When it comes to laws for marriage, divorce, child custody, and others, they are not a blanket set of rules across the country. Laws and regulations vary from state-to-state. What’s legal in one state may not be in another and could be somewhere in the middle somewhere else. 

Although an estate plan is generally valid no matter what state you move to, laws do differ governing them. Even the names of some estate planning documents may differ from your previous state. 

If you have an estate plan, you’ve already done the heavy lifting. It’s generally a matter of making some adjustments so your documents are in line with your new state of residence. 

Let’s break it down:

1. Last Will and Testament – Most states recognize out-of-state Wills. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that your property, your executor, and probate may be treated differently than your previous home state.

  • Community property states – States that have community property laws recognize all assets – property, financial accounts, real estate, and debts – acquired during marriage as jointly owned. So, in a divorce, they would be evenly split. Any asset you or your spouse had prior to marriage is considered an individual asset. A prenuptial agreement would override the community property law. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin are community property states. 
  • Common property law states – There are 41 states that have the common property law, where a spouse who purchased an asset (e.g., car, boat) and holds title to it, solely owns it. For probate, unless any asset or debt is under both spouses’ names, it is not recognized as jointly owned. If you are moving from a common property law state to a community property state or vice versa, your Will should be rewritten to reflect the respective state’s laws. 
  • Executor – Most states allow a Will’s executor, or personal representative, from another state to serve in your new state. However, some states have restrictions. Your executor may be required to post a bond or appoint an agent from your new state to manage the Will or accept legal papers. 

Related Article: Gentreo Life Events: How to Update Your Estate Plan When You Buy a Home

2. Living Trust – Revocable Living Trusts are generally honored in any state. But the laws of your new state will dictate its administration. To keep everything smooth, it’s best to amend the Trust to the language of your new state’s regulations. If you want your new home to be included in the Trust, you must ensure that the trust holds title to the house.  As noted above, property laws vary, so make sure that is considered when modifying the document.

Related Article: Comparing a Will-Based Estate Plan and a Revocable Living Trust-Based Estate Plan

3. Health Care ProxySome states call this document a Health Care Surrogate, Health Care Power of Attorney, or an Advance Directive. It’s a legal document where you appoint someone to make your medical treatment decisions and allows you to express your health care wishes in the event you are incapacitated. The Health Care Proxy – the appointed agent who makes the decisions – can be included in the Advance Directive or Living Will, or it can be a separate document. In some states, the Health Care Proxy document lists both your treatment wishes like in a Living Will and the agent. It’s imperative this document meets the requirements of your new state. Healthcare providers may balk at following an out-of-state document. 

Related Article: A Health Care Proxy by Any Other Name

4. Power of Attorney – This document may not be valid in some states, particularly those who did not adopt the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. It would be up to the financial institution or government agencies whether to accept an out-of-state Power of Attorney to act on your behalf to manage your finances if you cannot.

Gentreo Can Help You Update Your Estate Plan

Don’t wait for an emergency to strike to realize your out-of-state plan is not valid. Before you pack up and move across state lines, you should check on your new state’s laws and update your estate planning documents accordingly. Better yet, let us help you do that. 

Related Article: Gentreo Has Your Back Through Life’s Inflection Points

We have a network of third party estate planning attorneys (licensed in all 50 states) who can give you state-specific legal advice so you can review and amend your documents or create new ones to reflect your new state’s laws. 

And store your estate plan and other important and legal documents in the Gentreo Digital Family Vault. Have all your documents in one place that can be accessed from anywhere by you and those of your choosing with just a couple clicks.   

Everyone’s life is different. That’s why our estate plans are customized to meet your unique needs and can be modified as needed. 

Things change as we go through our journey, and you can have peace of mind knowing Gentreo is right with you every step of the way, even when you move to a new state!


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