In the last few weeks, we have received several calls from folks who have recently moved to Georgia from other states. While they have a completed estate plan from their home state, they are under the impression that their documents are invalid in Georgia, and they must re-do their planning. They were surprised to hear that this is not quite the case.
If you have completed your estate planning documents in another state, they are still valid in Georgia. Thanks to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV of the United States Constitution, “full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” This is why you are able to legally drive through Tennessee with a Georgia driver's license or present your Colorado birth certificate when registering for school in Michigan. Each state generally recognizes the validity of other states' legal records and documentation, including estate planning.
This means that if you prepared your estate plan, including a Will, Revocable Living Trust, Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Directive, in another state, and then moved to Georgia, your documents would be recognized as valid by the Georgia court system. You could, in most cases, leave your documents as is and they would be honored and accepted when the time came to use them…
…But we do not recommend that.
While estate planning documents from another state are valid in Georgia, they may not be optimized for Georgia law. For example, Georgia allows you to waive the need for your executor (personal representative) to post a bond or file annual reports, as well as create an inventory of your estate at your death. These waivers make the probate process much easier. However, the state in which your Will was prepared may not have such laws and thus these waivers are not mentioned in your Will. If that's the case, those formalities must be followed, which adds to the time and cost of probate. Similarly, in 2017 the Uniform Power of Attorney Act added several new benefits and protections to the Georgia Power of Attorney (read more about these changes here). If your Power of Attorney was prepared in another state that does not have these provisions in their POA, you would not be grandfathered into the Georgia law simply because you now live here.
In order to take advantage of these and other unique benefits of Georgia law regarding your Will, Trust, POA, or ADH, you will likely need to work with an attorney to tweak and adjust your documents to comply with the state's laws. In some cases, updates and amendments will suffice, and in others the document will need to be completely redone.
In a nutshell, yes, your out-of-state estate planning documents are valid in Georgia. However, we strongly recommend working with an attorney to determine if you could benefit from updating your documents. If you've moved to Georgia and want to make sure your estate planning documents are optimized for our laws, give Peach State Wills and Trusts a call at (678) 344-5342. We can schedule a consultation, review your documents, and help you determine the best plan of action.