Will Your Last Will and Testament Work in All States?

Close up of hands holding a document labeled last will and testament
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Will the last will and testament you made in Florida still stand if you later move to New Jersey and die there? Like many aspects of estate planning, the answer to this question is: It depends.

Was Your Will Valid in Your Former State?

If your last will and testament was created and signed with the proper formalities as required by the laws of your former state, it should still be considered valid in your new state. Otherwise, it would not be honored in either jurisdiction. For example, if the laws of your former state required that you sign your will in front of three witnesses, but you signed it in front of two witnesses, your will is not valid in your new state because it wasn't valid in your former state.

Different Types of Wills 

Some states recognize "nuncupative" wills and "holographic" wills, or both, while other states do not. For example, Florida recognizes neither. If you make a nuncupative or holographic will—oral or handwritten wills—that is valid in another state, and then you move to Florida, your will won't be valid there because the state does not honor these forms of wills.

A holographic will is written entirely in the testator's handwriting and is signed and dated by the testator. If someone with a holographic will moved to a new state that does not recognize holographic wills, the will would not be honored. 

A nuncupative will is spoken aloud in front of two or more witnesses, usually when the individual speaking the will is in immediate peril. The witnesses are then charged with writing their words and submitting them to the probate court within a very limited period after their death. As a practical matter, it is not likely the testator would be able to relocate to a new state if they were in imminent danger of dying. Such a will would most likely not be honored anywhere years after their death. 

Other Laws to Consider

Although your will may still be valid after you move to a new state, certain parts of it may become void or require changes to conform to the unique laws of your new state. For example, Florida law requires that a personal representative must be related to you by blood or a certain degree of marriage. If they are not your relative, they must be a Florida resident.

If you were previously a resident of Illinois and made a valid will while living there, you might have named your best friend as a personal representative. If that individual does not move with you to Florida, they would not be permitted to serve as a personal representative if you should die there. That provision of your will would not be honored. If you choose a bank or trust company to act as a personal representative, it must have the legal authority to act as a fiduciary in Florida.

What Can You Do if You Plan to Move?

If you are planning a move, consult an estate planning attorney familiar with the probate, trust, and estate tax laws of your new state. This simple step will ensure that your estate plan will continue to work the way you expected it to work when you made it.