Many residents have moved to North Carolina from another state. A common question that comes up is, 'if I did my will or estate planning documents in another state, do I need to update them now that I moved to North Carolina?.'

I want to share with you four reasons you should have your plan reviewed and why it may need some updating if you've moved to North Carolina.

Laws Vary From State to State

The first thing you should know is that the laws vary from state to state. Each state has different rules about who's authorized to serve as your executor or power of attorney, how marital property is handled, or what constitutes a valid will in your state. So it's always a good idea to have your plan reviewed if you've moved here from another state and make sure that the plan still works under North Carolina law.

We do find that a lot of out-of-state wills need to be updated for North Carolina. We have a law that says that North Carolina will honor out-of-state wills if they meet specific requirements. The issue is that this puts the burden on your executor to prove that that out-of-state will meet those requirements, meaning more work for your executor in the long run versus just updating the document.

North Carolina Has Strict Rules for What Constitutes a Valid Will

Second, we find that North Carolina tends to have stricter conditions for what constitutes a valid will compared to many other states. We run the risk that out-of-state documents won't hold up when needed, or they won't be honored for purposes of transferring real estate because the rules around real estate are more strict. We usually find it's better and easier to update the will than to take the chance regarding the out-of-state document, which might be useless down the road.

Health Care Directives and Living Wills Vary Dramatically

Third, the requirements for health care directives and living wills vary dramatically from state to state. We always recommend that our clients have state-specific North Carolina health care directives. Suppose you're having some health care emergency. In that case, we want to ensure your medical providers focus on your medical care and not waiting on some opinion from the legal department about what your loved ones are authorized to do on your behalf. Nobody wants to be in that situation. So we always think it's safer to have state-specific North Carolina health care directives.

Avoid the Hassle & Have Your Estate Plan Reviewed

But even if we put all those other reasons aside, here's the fourth, and main reason why we recommend that you have North Carolina documents.

Think about the reason you did your estate plan. Perhaps you wanted to make things easier for your family and avoid unnecessary stress or headaches. That's why we want you to have the North Carolina documents. We don't want your family stuck talking to local bankers or health care providers that don't know what to do with these out-of-state documents. And if your family ends up needing advice, we don't want them to have to hire two attorneys because otherwise, that's what can happen. They might have to talk to an attorney from that other state to see what the document allows for. Then they might have to get an opinion from a North Carolina attorney about how that document gets interpreted under North Carolina law.

The bottom line here is to make sure that your estate plan works as smoothly as possible for your family. You're always going to be safest if you have North Carolina-specific documents now that you are a North Carolina resident.

Get Peace of Mind That You and Your Family Are Protected

If you want true peace of mind that you and your family are protected, give our office a call at (919) 443-3035, and we'll take a look at your current documents and see what updates are needed now that you're a North Carolina resident. Follow up on the reasons why you should update your estate planning, or register for one of our free online seminars, 3 Secrets to Protect Your Family Without Going Broke or Being a Burden.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning