Choosing an estate planning attorney is frequently a stressful experience. Beyond the typical questions of competence you might ask your attorney to determine whether he can provide the service you need; you need to feel comfortable confiding in your attorney about your personal, family, financial, and health circumstances. All of these topics are uncomfortable to discuss with a stranger. As a result, many of my clients continue to see me for amendments and updates over time. Many of my clients and I have formed lifelong relationships, which can help eliminate the discomfort they feel during the planning process while also helping to maintain consistency in the plan overall.
Although many clients enjoy the stability that consistent estate planning counsel provides, sometimes life requires changes from one state to another. Deciding to find a new attorney in a new state can be just as daunting as finding an attorney in the first place, whether you are considering moving into or out of California. However, it is worthwhile to consult with an attorney shortly after you move in order to review your existing estate plan.
If the warm weather of Southern California is calling you from other parts of the country for retirement, it is likely that your financial picture will change significantly, which may affect your estate plan; real estate is more expensive in Southern California than in many other parts of the country, for example. It is possible that your estate may become primarily comprised of exempt assets for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) purposes. If that is the case, a QMap Trust may be useful to you, even if it was not likely to be helpful in another state.
Conversely, if the warmer tax climate of Nevada, Texas, or Florida calls you, your estate plan may also be affected. Each of these states are common locations for retirees and are income tax free. Since state laws vary, some plans that are useful in California may not translate as well in other states. Some states, for example, require that trusts be recorded, which eliminates the privacy inherent in a California trust administration. Similarly, some states have relatively inexpensive and simple probate proceedings such that probate avoidance is not a top priority. In these cases, you may not even want to have your assets held in trust.
Regardless of where you move, it is likely that the other documents in your estate plan will need to be updated. Your financial power of attorney, for example, may not be accepted by financial institutions if it was drafted out of state, particularly if it was drafted many years before it is needed. If you continue to own assets in more than one state or if your domicile is in question, then planning for specific assets may be necessary. When you move, your estate plan can come with you but your estate planning attorney cannot. Even though your plan continues to be valid in your new state, however, it may not continue to be effective for accomplishing your goals, meeting your family’s needs, and easing the transition of your assets!
Estate Planning: The Price of Organization, Rewards, Gifts, and Wondrous Tax Things… FREE REPORT: This complimentary report, focused on Estate Planning, is comprised of many of Mr. Miller’s articles from his long running column for the largest regional newspaper in San Diego County. This report will guide you through the questions surrounding getting your estate planning in order.