The answer is not so simple, as different states have different laws and requirements for wills and other estate planning documents.
In this article, I will explain some pros and cons of using an out-of-state attorney to write your will, and some factors you should consider before doing so.
Can an Out-of-State Attorney Write My Will?
Legally speaking, yes.
An out-of-state attorney can write your will, as long as they are licensed to practice law in the state where you live or where your property is located.
However, just because they can, does not mean they should.
There are several potential risks and drawbacks of using an out-of-state attorney to write your will.
Lack of familiarity with state laws
Each state has its own laws and rules regarding the validity, interpretation, and execution of wills and other estate planning documents.
An out-of-state attorney may not be aware of the specific requirements or nuances of your state’s laws, which could lead to errors or omissions in your will that could invalidate it or cause disputes among your heirs.
Difficulty meeting in person
An out-of-state attorney may not meet with you in person to discuss your wishes, goals, and concerns.
This could affect the quality and accuracy of your will, as well as the attorney-client relationship.
You may also have trouble contacting or communicating with an out-of-state attorney if you have questions or need updates on your case.
Higher costs and fees
An out-of-state attorney may charge higher fees than a local attorney, due to travel expenses, overhead costs, or different billing rates.
You may also incur additional costs for mailing, faxing, or notarizing documents, or for hiring a local attorney to review or file your will in your state.
Can an Attorney Prepare a Deed in Another State?
A deed is a legal document that transfers ownership of real estate from one person to another.
If you own real estate in another state, you may need to prepare a deed to transfer it to your trust, your spouse, your children, or another beneficiary.
Can you use an attorney from your home state to prepare a deed for property in another state?
The answer depends on how the deed is prepared and executed.
Generally speaking, an attorney can prepare a deed for property in another state, as long as they follow the laws and formalities of that state.
However, some states may require that the deed be executed (signed and witnessed) in the presence of a local attorney or notary public.
In that case, you may need to hire a local attorney to assist you with the execution of the deed.
Alternatively, some states may allow you to execute a deed by using a power of attorney (POA).
A POA is a document that authorizes another person (called an agent) to act on your behalf in certain matters.
You can use a POA to grant your agent the authority to sign and execute a deed for property in another state on your behalf.
However, you should consult with an attorney before using a POA for this purpose, as some states may have specific rules or limitations on the use of POAs for real estate transactions.
Is a Will Written in One State Valid in Another?
If you already have a will that was written in one state, and you move to another state, do you need to update or rewrite your will?
The answer depends on whether your will meets the legal requirements of both states.
Generally speaking, a will that is valid in one state is also valid in another state, as long as it complies with the basic formalities of both states.
For example, most states require that a will be in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will), and witnessed by two competent adults who are not beneficiaries of the will.
However, some states may have additional or different requirements for a valid will, such as
- The number and location of witnesses
- The presence and role of a notary public
- The inclusion or exclusion of certain clauses or provisions
- The treatment of certain types of property or beneficiaries
If your will does not meet these requirements, it may be invalid or partially invalid in your new state.
This could result in unintended consequences for your estate and your heirs.
- Your property being distributed according to the laws of intestacy (without a will) rather than according to your wishes
- Your beneficiaries being disinherited or receiving less than what you intended
- Your executor being unable to administer your estate or facing legal challenges from creditors or heirs
- Your estate being subject to higher taxes or fees
Therefore, it is advisable to review and update your will whenever you move to another state, or at least consult with an attorney who is familiar with the laws of both states.
Estate Planning for Out-of-State Clients
If you are an estate planning attorney, you may have clients who own property or have family members in different states.
How can you best serve these clients and ensure that their estate plans are effective and valid in multiple jurisdictions?
The answer is to collaborate with other attorneys who are licensed and experienced in the relevant states.
By working with a network of local attorneys, you can provide your clients with comprehensive and customized estate planning services that address their specific needs and goals.
Some of the benefits of collaborating with other attorneys for out-of-state clients are:
- You can offer your clients a one-stop shop for all their estate planning needs, without having to refer them to another firm or attorney
- You can leverage the expertise and knowledge of other attorneys who are familiar with the laws and practices of different states
- You can avoid the risks and liabilities of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in another state
- You can save time and money by outsourcing the preparation and execution of documents to local attorneys
- You can build trust and rapport with your clients by providing them with high-quality and comprehensive estate planning services
Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all process.
It requires careful attention to the laws and requirements of each state where you or your clients have property or family members.
Whether you are a client or an attorney, you should always consult with a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney before creating, updating, or executing any estate planning documents for another state.
By doing so, you can ensure that your estate plan is valid, effective, and consistent with your wishes.