Every year, millions of Florida snowbirds enjoy spending time in the warm climate away from their primary residence in colder parts of the U.S. If you plan to or already do vacation in the Sunshine State during the winter months, make sure your estate plan documents are accurate and enforceable.
Whether you rent your property or own a second residence to spend more time in the Florida sunshine, there are significant consequences to consider. Owning multiple homes and assets in different states requires your estate planning documents to be up-to-date and legally valid where they were created. This ensures your property gets transferred quickly, which helps your beneficiaries possibly avoid an emotional and costly probate process.
Estate Planning Documents You Should Have as a Florida Snowbird
As mentioned earlier, if you live in two states, estate planning gets a bit tricky. The good news, it’s nothing so challenging that you should give up your snowbird lifestyle. Florida law recognizes the validity of out-of-state wills and trusts so long as these documents meet the requirements of the state they were created. Working with an estate planning law attorney like Marc Brown, P.A., can ensure any will or trust you create meets the laws governing your estate.
Below are the core documents you will need for your estate plan as a Florida snowbird:
Durable Power of Attorney
If you are a snowbird who has become a legal resident of Florida, your documents will need to comply with the state’s legal requirements. Even if you decide to keep your residency status in another state, it doesn’t hurt to have a durable power of attorney specific to Florida law. Taking this step will ensure you have someone able to act on your behalf in financial and/or health matters when you cannot.
Advance Medical Directives
Hold onto copies of any advanced medical directives you have in place should you become incapacitated. While snowbirding in Florida, you don’t want to be unprepared for the unexpected. If you don’t have any advanced directives in place, Florida law provides a wide range of options it recognizes:
- Living wills
- Healthcare surrogates
- DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate orders)
By expressing your wishes when it comes to severe health situations, leaving you unable to care or make decisions for yourself, these essential documents ensure your preferences are known and respected.
Always have a current copy of your legally valid will with you while residing in Florida. The state recognizes out-of-state wills, though there may be a few legal differences to know about. For example, clauses that cut out those who would challenge your will (in terrorem) are not allowed under Florida law, even though your state may. This is why it’s crucial to speak with a knowledgeable estate attorney to determine what aspects of your estate plan may not hold up under the law.
One issue of owning homes in different states is how this real estate gets legally transferred to your beneficiaries upon your death. Without a proper estate plan, the Florida probate process handles any property you have in the state. Plus, relying on a will guarantees your family will have to go through probate court. This is because wills only provide directions to the state on how to probate your assets. Even worse? Your loved ones will have to deal with probate in each state you have real property.
Living trusts are a great solution to prevent this dilemma because all of the legalities are already handled. Essentially, your beneficiaries will automatically receive their portion of your estate upon your death.
Should Snowbirds Become Florida Residents?
The answer to this question depends on the benefits of doing so. Does Florida residency offer more favorable tax benefits? What about long-term care? Where do you plan to ultimately live when you need these services? Because every state has its own regulations and care programs, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about changing your residency or not.
Find Out More About Estate Planning for Florida Snowbirds
If you or someone you know lives in Florida for part of the year as a snowbird, it’s essential to prepare your estate to handle the complexities of living in multiple states. Attorney Marc Brown, P.A., has served snowbirds throughout South Florida for a decade. He provides his clients with important insights regarding their estate plans to protect their finances and wishes.