The month of May means we are getting closer to the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, but also the beginning of the busiest moving season of the year. That’s why May is National Moving Month. There is a lot to think about when moving: along with organizing and packing up all of your belongings, there is also starting and stopping utilities, mail forwarding, updating voter registration, and so on. While the ever-growing number of items on your moving to-do list may be overwhelming, it is important not to overlook two essential items that should be added to your moving checklist: (1) locating your important documents and (2) meeting with your advisor team.
Locating Your Important Documents
In all of the chaos of moving boxes and packing tape, it is easy for things to get lost in the shuffle or even thrown out during a move. Yet certain important documents, such as birth certificates, social security cards, passports, financial statements, and estate planning documents, should not be packed up and put on the moving truck along with your dishes and shoes. Keep these important documents safe and accessible during your move and ensure that they do not get thrown out by accident.
One idea is to purchase a portable file box with an attached lid and a secure latch. You might consider purchasing a brightly colored one so that it is easily identifiable. Then, place this file box in a secure and easily accessible location. If you are moving locally, a logical place might be at a family member’s or friend’s home. If you are moving a longer distance, that place might be the trunk of your car.
It is also wise to have electronic backup copies of all of your important documents. This could take the form of taking pictures of your documents and saving them to your smartphone, a password-protected removable flash or external hard drive, or storing them in the cloud. Then you will at least have a copy of these important documents in case you cannot locate the original.
By adding this simple step to your moving checklist, you will save yourself a lot of time and headache when, for example, you are not having to run around searching through unpacked boxes for your children’s birth certificates so that you can register them for their new school.
Meeting with Your Advisor Team
Along with contacting the moving company, it is also a good idea to reach out to your team of advisors during a move. For example, one of the pressing questions associated with a move is how much it will cost. Although the final calculation of cost will depend on factors such as the size of your home, the distance you are moving, and your willingness to take on DIY projects, your financial advisor can help you set a moving budget that aligns with your long-term financial goals.
If you are moving to a new state, it is also advisable to contact your estate planning attorney. In general, a will or trust created in one state should be valid in your new home state. However, some documents, such as a financial or medical power of attorney, can be state-specific. Because estate planning laws vary by state, it is highly recommended that you have your estate planning documents reviewed to ensure their validity in your new state. Your attorney can review your documents or connect you with an attorney in your new state who can review them for you.
If you are married, your out-of-state move may have additional estate planning implications if you are moving to or from a community property state. Currently, there are nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In these states, there is a presumption that property acquired during the marriage is owned equally. On the other hand, property acquired by gift or inheritance or that is brought into the marriage by one spouse is separate property. Moving from a community property state to a noncommunity property state (i.e., a common law state) or from a common law state to a community property state raises questions about whether community property remains or becomes community property. For example, if a couple acquires a home in California during their marriage and then moves to Nebraska and purchases a new home in Nebraska with the proceeds from the sale of their home in California, is the new Nebraska home community property? Your estate planning attorney can help answer these questions for you and advise you about the steps you should take to preserve certain tax benefits that may be available to you.
There is a lot to think about when moving, but locating and safekeeping your important documents and meeting with your advisor team are two essential items that should be added to that moving checklist. If you have recently moved to New Jersey, or if you are moving soon, please reach out to us so that we can help ensure your move goes smoothly.