There are a few important life events that warrant a review and update of your estate plans. One such event is moving to another State.
Each state has its own unique probate and estate planning laws. This means you may want to consult with an attorney if you move to another State so ensure that your existing Will can be easily administered as-is in your new home State, or if some changes may be needed.
If you’ve recently moved to Virginia from another State, here are a few things you’ll need to consider when updating your Will.
Common estate planning issues when moving across State lines
A person’s tax domicile is where they are considered a primary resident for tax purposes. Your “domicile” State is one in which you have clear roots — e.g., owning property, having a valid in-state driver’s license, registering to vote in that state, etc. If you move to Virginia and intend to claim it as your tax domicile, having an old out-of-state Will may work against you. Establishing a valid Virginia Will with the help of a local attorney (along with updating your other legal documents and registrations) can help cement your new home state as your legal tax domicile.
Witness and wording requirements
Regardless of where you drafted it, a Will typically needs to have a competent witness or witnesses sign the document in front of the testator (the person who wrote it) for it to be considered valid. In Virginia, a Will must be signed by two competent individuals, who may or may not be direct beneficiaries of that Will. In other States, a beneficiary cannot serve as a witness. The precise wording of a Will is also important, and phrasing requirements for drafting certain clauses may differ from state to state.
Although the “Conflict of Law” rule in most States validates an out-of-state Will so long as it is executed according to the original State’s laws, the probate process will likely be easier for your loved ones and your executor if you create an updated Virginia Will. A local attorney will be able to help you understand and comply with any Virginia witness and wording requirements that differ from those of your previous home state.
Estate planning after a divorce is handled differently on a state-by-state basis. In some states, divorce revokes a Will, but in others, like Virginia, divorce only revokes any benefits or executorship duties given to an ex-spouse. If you got divorced in a state that automatically revokes a Will post-divorce, then moved to Virginia and died here without updating your estate plans, your current Will would not be considered valid in either State.
A divorce is another life-changing event that should warrant a review and update of your estate plans anyway, so if you recently moved to Virginia following a divorce, it’s a doubly good idea to draft a new Will.
While your chosen executor does not have to live in the same State where you draft your Will, you may wish to update this designation in your estate plans when you move for practical reasons. Serving as an estate executor can be a complicated and time-consuming endeavor, and it may be easier to choose a local attorney or relative who can carry out their duties without extensive travel to and from Virginia.
Consult a local attorney to ensure your Will complies with Virginia laws.
If you move across State lines, it’s essential that you work with a local attorney to understand how the state’s laws will affect the way your Will is carried out. If, for some reason, you pass away after moving to Virginia and your out-of-state Will is deemed invalid, your wishes may not be carried out as you intended.
If you’ve recently moved to Virginia and need to update your estate plans, contact the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor to schedule a free consultation to discuss your circumstances.