Welcome back, Snowbirds! We are writing this blog at the tail end of November. Today’s midday temperature in New York is 38 degrees; in Chicago, 34; in Boston, 35. At our Palm Beach Gardens office, it’s a glorious, balmy 70 degrees. No wonder you’ve returned home! Whatever part of the country in which you spend the rest of your time, you deserve to be confident that your estate planning documents protect you and your family here in your home state of Florida. Here is what you need to know:
Your Last Will & Testament
Theoretically – a word you will see again in this blog post – a valid will from out-of-state is valid in Florida. However, there are some not-so-subtle differences in laws among states. Among them is who you can name to serve as your personal representative (executor). Another difference is whether an “in terrorem” clause is valid. The in terrorem clause effectively cuts out of your estate anyone who might challenge it. Florida does not permit such clauses, but other states do. For these and other reasons, Florida residents need to be sure their Last Will & Testament is compatible under Florida law.
We get numerous calls from people who want to change their documents prior to relocating to Florida. Changing your documents at that point is premature: you cannot have multiple wills. Once you have officially relocated, consult us without delay and we will review your Will.
Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Medical Directives
Once again – theoretically – Florida should accept documents that are valid from a different state. However, if you’re now a legal resident of Florida, you should have documents that are Florida-specific. In fact, for peace of mind, many people who are not official residents but spend significant time in Florida choose to have a Durable Power of Attorney as well as a Health Care Surrogate for Florida, as well as for their home state. A Durable Power of Attorney authorizes someone to handle your financial affairs if you cannot do so; a Health Care Surrogate authorizes some to make your medical decisions if you cannot do so.
Many Snowbirds own property in Florida and in another state. Without the proper legal arrangements, both properties will go through probate. In other words, your heirs will face the hassle and expense of probate in Florida and in another state as well.
The way to prevent multiple probates is to establish a Revocable Living Trust. If you are a Florida resident with a Revocable Trust from another state, more than likely it will need to be redone, because there are significant differences in state laws as it relates to estate taxes and other matters. Your Florida trust should also include language that allows you to avail yourself of Florida’s homestead (property) tax reduction and creditor protection.
If you are a Florida resident who has yet to update your plans from another state, contact our office to schedule a review of your estate planning documents. If you are a Snowbird and only in town for a matter of months – whether you are a client of our firm or contacting us for the first time – please get in touch as soon as possible. Appointments can be limited at this time of year, and we want to be sure we can assist you before you head back north. Reach us at (561) 625-1100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.