Out-of-State Wills and Executors

A will drafted in another state may still be considered valid in California, provided it was valid in the state where it was originally written. However, a will that does not meet California Probate Code requirements can make things difficult for an estate executor—especially if the estate executor does not live in California.

Out-of-state executors may struggle to gather the resources needed to prove that a will written somewhere other than California is valid. They will have to track down the attorney who drafted the first copy and obtain a declaration stating that the document is legal. If the attorney is no longer practicing law, has moved to another country, or has passed away, the executor may be left with few options.

Even if the executor can obtain a declaration, they will have to initiate probate proceedings in California. Since probate can be demanding and challenging, they will have to spend a lot of time away from home inventorying assets, filing paperwork, and resolving the estate’s outstanding debt before the matter can be closed.

Thus, even if an out-of-state will may be technically valid in California, it may be a bad idea to keep the same document without making alterations or designating a new executor.

How to Make the Right Changes

Adjusting an estate plan after moving to California does not have to be a complex or time-consuming ordeal. Anyone who has already written a will, established a trust, or appointed an estate executor has already done more estate planning than the majority of Americans.

Since the legal framework is already in place, the estate plan may only need minor revisions to make it compliant with state law.

After making an appointment with an experienced California estate planning attorney, new residents should bring whatever documents they already have to the initial consultation. This may include:

  • Copies of a will or living will
  • Copies of a living trust
  • A list of beneficiary designations
  • The names and location of anyone who has been assigned the durable, medical, and/or financial power(s) of attorney


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.