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4 Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan When You Move to California

BY: Law Offices of Andrew Cohen | November 18, 2021

When you move to California from another state you may not think there is any reason to review or change your will or trust. But your circumstances may have changed considerably since you first created your estate documents. And your estate plan was drafted to be consistent with the laws of the state you lived in at the time.

A will that was validly created outside California will be valid in the state but there may be unintended results when California inheritance laws are applied to documents drafted according to another state’s laws.

At the Law Offices of Andrew Cohen, we recommend reviewing your existing estate plan created in another state and updating your documents so they are in compliance with California law. Our Santa Clarita estate planning attorney gives clients peace of mind by making sure their wishes will be carried out.

1. Inheritance Laws are Different from State to State

The laws of the state in which you execute your estate planning documents may influence how the documents are written and the plan for distribution. The language used may not be relevant or appropriate for distribution under another state’s laws.

If a will is determined valid in California, then California law will apply as to the distribution of all real property owned in California and all personal property located anywhere.

2. California is a ‘Community Property’ State

In California, all property acquired during a marriage or domestic partnership (that is not a gift or inherited) is owned equally by both partners as community property. Community property ownership is the law in only a minority of states. Most states consider the earnings and acquisitions of each partner to be their separate property unless they choose to characterize it differently.

Persons who create estate plans in non-community property states where their property is characterized as separate for distribution purposes could find their plans frustrated if the property is considered to be community property under California law.

3. There is No State Inheritance or Estate Tax in California

The beneficiary of proceeds from an estate pays the inheritance tax. The estate tax is paid by the estate before any distributions to beneficiaries. There are seventeen states that have imposed either inheritance or estate tax. Only Maryland has both an inheritance tax and an estate tax.

Planning to minimize taxes may have been done for a will executed in a state that collects inheritance or estate tax and that planning is not necessary or desired for wills probated in California.

4. The Circumstances of Your ‘Estate’ Have Changed

When you created your estate plan in another state you may have owned a home in that state. You may have named a local financial institution to handle certain of your affairs. You may have listed a particular family member that lived close by to make decisions for you if you were unable to do so.

Now that you have moved to California, many of those prior decisions may need updating to reflect your current circumstances.

The Santa Clarita estate planning lawyer at Law Offices of Andrew Cohen will review your existing estate plan, learn what is important to you, and update your documents to be consistent with your recent changes. Call our office at 661-481-0100 to schedule a free consultation or contact us here to ensure your estate planning goals will be accomplished.

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