Q: Since people move around so much these days, how portable are estate plans?
A: You are right: people don’t stay in one place anymore. There was a time when most people died within 50 miles of where they were born. That is no longer the case. People move around a lot.
As you know, laws relating to wills and probate are not federal. Each state has its own sets of laws that address what is and is not a valid will. Each state also determines for itself which wills are admissible. Federal law does not determine what is a valid will.
With that in mind, the simple answer to your question is that estate plans are generally portable. Indiana has a statute that essentially states that a will that was validly executed and is admissible in another jurisdiction will be recognized in Indiana. Although I haven’t researched it, I suspect that other states have similar provisions.
However, although the plan may be valid in another state, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have it looked at when you establish a new residency.
The will may be valid and admissible but it may still be missing something important. For example, the new state may have a death tax of some sort that should be addressed. If the will is silent on death taxes, there could be an ambiguity that could cause headaches. It’s unlikely to invalidate the will, but problems could result.
Also, some states are community property states. Community property is a whole different critter that could impact the testamentary provisions of the will.
If you have an Indiana trust, it likely states that it is subject to the laws of the State of Indiana. If you no longer reside in Indiana, you may wish to amend the trust to reflect that the laws of the new state control.
There are just a lot of little things that could impact the estate plan when moving. It’s always best to sit down with an attorney and have the plan reviewed to make sure it is valid and sufficient in the new state. Remember folks, it’s almost always easier to avoid a problem than to solve it later.
Happy 4th of July.
Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Chris’ Estate Planning Article appears online every Sunday at www.nwi.com. Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chrisyugolaw@gmail.com. Chris’ information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.