If you are one of the many people who move to California each year, you may not be aware of some of the distinct estate planning rules which may be very different from your home state. In general, state law governs estate planning areas like probate, trust administration and living wills.

For this reason, you may want to have your estate plan reviewed by a California estate planning attorney, to make sure your documents are valid and conform to California laws. Here are a few of the areas you should think about when you move to California:

Probate Attorneys’ Fees

If you have a will, then the fees charged by attorneys are set by California statute as a percentage of estate value, so it might be worth it to set up a trust instead if you have a high net worth.

Small Estate Probate

On the flip side, California does offer a streamlined probate process for small estates of less than $150,000.

Intestate Laws

If for some reason you don’t make a will, the California intestate laws will determine who receives your assets, and it may be different than your home state or against your wishes.

Living Wills

Every state has different standards for the contents of a living will (or advanced health care directive in California). You will want to make sure that your instructions for care in your living will are valid in California, and it must be signed in front of two witnesses or a notary.

Rules on California Executors

If you moved from another state, your named executor may still reside there. The executor to your estate is an important role, and although there is no prohibition in California on out of state executors, it may make sense to choose someone who is nearby. Many California courts require a bond be posted for an out-of-state executor to serve.

Special Rules for Couples

California is a community property state, and this may be a change that could affect your estate planning and distribution of assets if there is a separation or divorce. Also, if a couple legally separates, there may still be some inheritance rights or fiduciary duties that are preserved.

If you are new to California, or have an estate plan that was drafted in another state, it may be worthwhile to have it reviewed and updated to meet California’s rules. Please call the attorneys at Shoup Legal.