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Topic: Moving to Another State


By Milton Babirak, JD, LLM      |      Babirak Carr, PC     |     Sterling, VA

If you had an estate plan prepared while you were a Virginia resident, your estate plan is almost certainly a Virginia estate plan, governed by Virginia law. If so, you’ve spent a lot of time with your Virginia lawyer working on it and you’ve paid him a fee to prepare it. But what happens if you move to another state? Here in northern Virginia, moving to a new state is pretty common. This area is a very transient area. People come and go all the time.


Generally speaking, Virginia wills are prepared in such a fashion that they may be “good” in any of the 50 states. They have the requisite formality and the proper number of witnesses and notary to be recognized in all 50 states. The same may be true of Virginia revocable trusts. Other states readily accept Virginia wills and trusts and Virginia accepts wills and trusts from other states. So, there is no problem. Right?


Well, there can be problems. Wills and trusts are governed by state law. Virginia wills and trusts are governed by Virginia law. The laws on wills and trusts differ in different states. For example, the laws of some states permit some planning opportunities while others don’t. Virginia permits a person to make an informal list of who gets what tangible personal property. This is helpful because you can change it without having to go to a lawyer to draft it. Some other states don’t permit this. There are many examples of such differences.


Because of these many differences in state law, it is advisable to have a lawyer in your new state review your estate plan if you move to a new state. In my experience, lawyers tend to approach this in one of two ways; they either recommend a whole new estate plan, suitable for your new estate, or they may make a few changes to your existing estate plan but do not replace it.


If you move to one of the eight community property states, like Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Washington, the form of property ownership is different, and a new estate plan may be needed.

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