Questions and Answers: State-Specific Estate Plans

Estate planning deals with control over your health, finances, bank accounts, and personal property while you’re still alive as well as when deceased. A “will,” is a plan for asset distribution only after death.

Estate planning addresses questions such as:

  • Who exactly is going to take charge of my business when I am dead or incapacitated?
  • Who receives specific control over my real property?
  • Who inherits my real estate?
  • Who gets custody of my minor children?
  • Who will arrange for my medical care or make medical decisions for me if I’m incapacitated?
  • Who will be entitled to receive my protected personal health information?
  • Is Estate Planning Pretty Much the Same in Every State?

The United States system of government was premised on the separation of state and federal powers: “all powers not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved to the states.” Because state law governs most ownership and disposition of property, there are state-specific estate planning laws in each state. Because of the full faith and credit provision of the Constitution, a validly drafted estate plan in one state will be recognized in other states except insofar as state-specific statutes are referred to.

Nonetheless, when moving from one state to another it is wise to have an attorney in your new state review your estate plan to point out those areas needing revision. In addition, state inheritance laws can vary and affect estate planning law.

Nine states have adopted community property law: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Three other states (Alaska, Tennessee, and Kentucky) have adopted optional community property systems. The remaining states have adopted the common law of property.

These notable differences make estate planning services from businesses like A People’s Choice very valuable. Our legal document service can’t offer legal advice, but we can review and fine-tune all the documentation needed for your California estate plan for far less than you’d pay a lawyer.

5 Key Reasons to Learn the Differences in State Specific Estate Planning Laws

Although US states are constantly working towards the adoption of uniform laws and federal requirements guiding the powers of attorney and trusts, we are not there yet. Thus, it is still very important to learn of the differences in state-specific and advanced estate planning laws. Here are the top reasons for having your estate plan reviewed locally when changing state residence:

1. It affects estate plan validity

What happens if you move and, due to a state estate planning law, your plan is no longer valid? If you should die or become incapacitated, your estate plan wouldn’t take effect and your estate would be left to general state law. That’s not a situation you want to be in.

2. It may result in delay and complications

Adequate knowledge of state-to-state differences helps to curb delays and complications. Such situations are bound to arise due to variations between estate planning law in different states, especially for a complex estate. However, doing what you can to mitigate them helps to protect your assets and beneficiaries during the probate process.

3. Estate plan interpretation varies from state to state

Estate planning attorneys could tell you that although various state laws provide similar provisions as the basis for estate planning, the interpretation and extent of implementation are not identical. Learning about your new state’s laws can help you adjust as needed.

4. State laws sometimes link your legal documents in different ways

Some states directly or indirectly link estate plans with marriage laws, estate taxes, divorce laws, and many more. This leads to the possibility of one set of laws overlapping those of another state. Naturally, this may have consequences for your estate planning documents and cause a legal issue, so be sure to take heed.

5. The laws governing estate plans consistently change

Laws are constantly shifting, so even if you’ve lived in a state before, you may want to review current laws. State estate laws undergo frequent review, modification, and amendment, so what was acceptable years ago may not be anymore. Additionally, interpretations may have changed over the course of several amendments. This is something you’ll want to know as you adjust your estate. Therefore, Agins Law Firm, PLC advises its clients to review their estate plans periodically, especially if there have been major life changes such as births, deaths, marriages, job changes, significant investment changes and so forth. Contact Agins Law Firm, PLC at (480) 401-2660 for a consultation if you have recently changed, or plan to change, your state