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New To Washington? Remember To Review Your Estate Plan

Posted by Judy Nakashima Shoji | Feb 19, 2021 | 0 Comments

Are you one of the millions of individuals who moved to Washington from another state? Has the pandemic allowed you to work remotely from any location?

Whether you've already made a move to Washington or are considering an upcoming relocation, you likely created a checklist that includes updating your address, obtaining a new driver's license, and possibly purchasing an umbrella. Unfortunately, many people fail to add another line item to the checklist: ensuring they update their estate-planning documents.

Few are aware that they may need to revise their wills after relocating from one state to another. It is important to understand that state-by-state differences in inheritance, marital property, and tax may affect your estate plan. It is also important to ensure that your estate planning documents are in full compliance with Washington law.

Updating your plan can reduce unnecessary stress or unintended consequences resulting from the difference in states' laws. Below are some of the considerations that your relocation may impact.

Domicile

Your domicile is based on various factors, especially if you maintain property in multiple states. Factors affecting domicile can include where you spend your time, work, register to vote or drive, and the address listed in your legal documents.

Marital Property

Marital property laws determine the division of assets between spouses upon death or divorce. Washington recognizes property as community property, treating all assets acquired during the marriage (though not gifts or inheritance) as equally owned by both spouses.

Other states recognize "common law" property, which treats each spouse's property as individually owned. If you move between different legal systems, the character of your marital property may be affected.

Property Titling

Some states have particular property laws that may impact or be impacted by how you title your property. Failing to consider these issues may result in unanticipated taxes, liability, fees, and headaches. Review your property title after your move to be sure the legal effect matches what you desire. 

Gift, Estate, and Inheritance Laws

While federal estate tax only applies to decedents with estates above $11.7 million (as of 2021), the Washington state tax exemption is lower at $2,193,000 per person. If relocating from a state with no state tax exemption or one that was lower, your estate plan may need to be restructured or simplified to reflect our state's tax laws.

Probate

If Washington is now your new residence and you purchase real property, your estate will require probate in Washington. If you own property in another state, ancillary probate will likely be a requirement in that state as well.

Updating your plan now can reduce unnecessary stress or unintended consequences resulting from the difference in state laws after you pass. Reach out to us today. We will be happy to review your plan to ensure it fully conforms to Washington law.

About the Author

Judy Nakashima Shoji

Judy prides herself on being approachable, down to earth and willing to answer any questions hr clients may have. She is a Seattle native. She attended the University of Washington, Tokyo University and Seattle University School of Law. She was a legal intern in the Civil Division of the Seattle City Attorney's Office and at Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company located in Shinjuku, Japan. Judy advises clients in all aspects of estate planning, probate and adoptions. She also serves as a Title 11 court appointed investigator in guardianship cases for King County Superior Court. She cannot think of any areas in which she would rather practice. She invests in learning about her client's whole story which creates a friendly environment in which she can provide more effective assistance. Her goal is for her estate planning clients to walk away with a customized, detailed, realistic, and clear estate plan which will accomplish their wishes. Estate planning can be uncomfortable and confusing and her goal is to explain complicated legal options in a way that is easy to understand and clear. Her desire is to provide peace of mind and clarity for her clients while also giving them the information necessary to make well informed decision. Judy has been a member of the Elder Law and Real Property and Trust sections of the Washington State Bar Association and King County Bar Association. She has been a volunteer attorney with the King County Bar Association Neighborhood Clinic and Pro Bono Services for the past 14 years where she was recognized as volunteer of the month in October 2014. Judy is married with three children. Outside of work she enjoys traveling to sunny locations, exercising (HIIT and barbell classes keep her grounded) and spending time with the people (and animals) she loves.

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