Do You Need to Update Your Will If You Move Interstate?

A woman reviews financial plans in folders.

Integrity Pictures Inc / Getty Images

Most people who establish wills periodically adjust these documents after they experience life changes such as getting married, having kids, or filing for divorce. But not everyone considers tweaking their wills after they relocate from one state to another.

This is understandable. After all, most properly drafted estate plans retain their validity across different states. But there are occasions when adjustments are called for, given that some states have unique laws pertaining to the creation and implementation of documents like wills, trusts, advance medical directives, and powers of attorney.

The Role of the Executor

When people make a will, they typically name an executor to manage the financial health and distribution of the estate. Executors are responsible for submitting the will to probate, gathering the estate's assets, dealing with taxes, paying debts, and notifying beneficiaries, as well as other duties. Executors are sometimes known as personal representatives, among other terms.

The executor is usually someone close to the decedent and will have to be approved by the probate court. Generally, the court will approve the executor selected by the decedent, assuming that they meet requirements.

However, the role of the executor is determined by state law. Some states have laws on the books requiring your personal representatives to reside in the state in which your will is being probated. If your executor lives out of state, they may be required to appoint an agent to accept legal papers. In some cases, state law determines exactly who this agent must be, e.g., an in-state probate court judge.

When you relocate to another state, your personal representative or estate executor often does not relocate along with you. If your new state requires an in-state personal representative for the purposes of probate, you may want to consider naming another executor who lives close by.

There are also practical considerations to take into account. The probate process can last anywhere from a few months to a few years. An out-of-state executor may find themselves traveling back and forth a fair amount during the process. The job of executor is a substantial commitment. It may be best to make things as easy as possible for the person you select.

If you do not name another executor, and your state has this requirement, the court will appoint another personal representative or agent to handle your estate after you die, and this individual may not be someone you approve of.

When you relocate, proactively name a new, locally based personal representative, before someone else makes this decision for you.

Typical State Requirements for Executors

Although state law varies, these are a few of the typical restrictions and requirements to keep in mind:

Age. Some states will require executors to be a specific age, e.g., 18 or 19 years old.

Incapacitation. State law typically requires executors to be of sound mind, which means that they haven't been judged incapacitated by the court.

Felony convictions. Several states have prohibitions against selecting an executor who has been convicted of a felony For example, Alabama will not allow you to select an executor who has been convicted of an "infamous crime."

Some states require executors to post bond before accepting their role. Other states require only out-of-state representatives to acquire this type of insurance policy.

Review Estate Planning Documents to Ensure Compliance

Many people falsely believe that their estate planning tasks are complete one they've signed and executed all of their estate-planning documents. However, state and federal laws that govern wills, trusts, and other estate-planning documents can change from one year to the next, which may eventually render your current estate plan obsolete.

Furthermore, laws of your new state may effectively invalidate your old estate plan, altogether. The only remedy for this concern is to vigilantly monitor legislative changes under the guidance of a qualified legal professional.

The information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney.

Article Sources

  1. Virginia Court Clerks' Association. "Probate in Virginia," Pages 4-5.

  2. Connecticut General Statutes Annotated. "Chapter 896, Section 52-60: Judge of Probate as Attorney for Non-resident Fiduciary."

  3. Alabama Legislature. "Section 43-2-22."

  4. Iowa Trust Code. “Chapter 633A,” Page 20.