Moving More Than Furniture – Legal Transitions for Relocating Seniors

Seniors in search of a life nearer their kids or grandkids often end that search with a move to a new home.

Finding a home that will meet their needs as they age could mean downsizing.

When seniors are seeking a home that is more manageable, age-friendly, or comes with new scenery, they might find what they want in a different state.

Moving to a warmer climate, one that doesn’t require snow removal to get milk or even just the mail, is often a decision in the best interest of our senior loved one. Being afraid of slipping on the ice can result in isolation to avoid taking chances in the winter weather.

Sometimes living in the Deep South is not the healthiest option either, especially if the family is not nearby. Extreme heat can be just as isolating as extreme cold.

What do we need to think about when we move from one state to another besides the change in the weather?

Moving Changes

When seniors move there are many details that come along with an out of state move that could affect them differently than if a younger person were to move to a new location.

When we move we know that there are many and often frustrating changes need to occur to make us true residents of our new state no matter what our age.

  • Changing our address with everyone we know not just family but magazines, credit card, voters registration and all other places that have our current address
  • Connecting to new providers for water, electric, cable, newspaper and telephone
  • Finding new doctors, dentists, eye doctors, specialists, hospitals and veterinarians that you trust
  • Locating a new church or other faith organization and becoming a member
  • Picking a grocery store and pharmacy that meet our needs and preferences
  • Obtaining your driver’s license and updating your passport and other forms of ID

How about moving changes that are specific to older adults?

Legal Considerations for Moving Seniors

When seniors move from one state to another, many of their legal choices that they have put in writing may have to be updated.

Certain legal decisions have regional rules and statutes that differ from one state to another. It is very important for seniors to get these legal documents updated. You might consider using an elder law attorney who specializes in these state rules and regulations as quickly as possible in case they are needed fast.

Let’s take a look at some of the areas that should be reviewed when senior loved ones change states.

  1. Advance directives – having advance directives, including a living will, trusts, do not resuscitate orders, or power of attorney for healthcare documentation is a fabulous plan. However, various states have different rules about advance directives. If your senior’s forms are not in compliance with the state where they now reside, it could result in lack of desired treatment or healthcare professionals being unable to follow their wishes in an emergency.
  2. Medicaid – This is a government program but run by each state and their governing rules, which vary. If your senior is receiving Medicaid, they will need to meet the requirements of their new state. Federal requirements apply to all states but some state by state guidelines such as amounts of gifts, Medicaid annuities and exemption for personal residences may be different. There may be a waiting list in the new state for coverage.
  3. Executor or Proxy – if your senior has named a person to be their proxy for healthcare or finances or the executor of their will because they lived nearby and now they don’t, it might be time to reassess whether that person is still willing and able to act as executor or proxy.
  4. Financial institutions – it is important that all financial institutions are notified of your senior’s out of state move. This includes retirement plan, IRA’s, CD’s, bank accounts, savings bonds, money market funds, stock ownership, VA benefits, credit union accounts and mortgages. Family caregivers should know where all the sources of finances can be found in case they need to file for Medicaid or VA benefits or any government assistance for their seniors to verify eligibility. If the financial institution does not have the current address, the account could be forgotten and the money lost.
  5. Pre-paid burial arrangements – if your senior loved one has created a burial plan in the state where they were residents but no longer wish to be interred in their former state, they will need to change those pre-paid arrangements and set up a new plan.
  6. Locate documents – when moving out of state it is important to protect all documents (when not stored electronically) that will be needed, such as tax records, vehicle titles, deeds, advance directives, contracts, marriage certificate, military service record, passport, stock certificates, all insurance policies, Social Security and insurance cards, organ donor card, end of life wishes documents such as the Five Wishes or POLST, and divorce papers and keep them safe and accessible for family caregivers.
  7. Safe deposit boxes – it shouldn’t be forgotten to transfer all safe deposit box contents to the new state. Important documents and belongings may be stored here and potentially forgotten if the safe deposit box opened years before is left behind.
  8. Property – if your senior will still own property in another state after they move, they should check with an attorney because there may be rules that now pertain to them with regard to ownership now that they are legal residents of a different state.

Even the most well planned estate and legal documentation will need to be updated when there is an out of state move.

Don’t Risk Shortcuts

Many documents such as advance directives, wills and trusts should be reviewed every few years whether there was a move or not in case laws have changed making those documents invalid.

It is valuable to have your senior’s legal affairs reviewed by an elder law attorney or an estate planning attorney, not just a general practitioner, to be sure they are covered in the event of any emergency or change in their status requiring someone else to step in on their behalf.

When we move, changing the electric or water is the easy part. Remembering to update legal documents and keep track of financial assets may not always be done.

Getting all our valuable and important legal issues updated should be a priority so our seniors don’t lose any assets or invalidate their wishes.

Then they can start to enjoy their new home!