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Estate Planning for Snowbirds

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It’s that time of year when thoughts of living in a warm climate appeal to those of us stuck in the frigid northeast.

Those who are blessed with the opportunity to spend part of their year in Florida or another warm climate, may be interested in some of the estate planning issues that arise when you take on the status of “snowbird”.

The first question is what state do you intend to reside?  Your residence is typically determined by the amount of contacts you have with the state.  Do you vote, pay income taxes, insurance or have other state connections such that they outweigh the state that you visit during part of the year?  That state of residence will have a lot to do with the documents you should obtain.  Most of my clients still consider themselves Pennsylvania residents although they spend several months of the year in Florida.

Thereforethey have Pennsylvania documents such as a Will, Power of Attorney or Health Care Power of Attorney that reflects Pennsylvania law.   If they permanently move to Florida, they should visit a Florida attorney to have new documents done.

Some clients ask if they should have two sets of documents, one for each state.  While it is possible to have two sets of documents, there is a risk of conflict between them.  Therefore, most clients only have one set of estate planning documents.   Powers of Attorney can be used across state lines for most transactions.

If you have real estate that you purchased in a second state, you may want to consider a revocable living trust to deal with the settlement of your affairs in the non-resident state.  If my client has real estate in Florida, I would want them to consider a revocable living trust to avoid probate in Florida when they pass.  If they don’t have such a document, their family will need to retain an attorney in Florida to handle the probate process with regard to the property in Florida.  This can be a time consuming and expensive process that could be easily avoided with a revocable living trust.

Lastly, make sure you have multiple originals or at least copies of your Powers of Attorney for financial and healthcare decision making that you can take with you when you travel.  There could be a crisis that occurs as you travel from state to state, requiring the use of those documents.   Having the Powers of Attorney with you along with contact information for your agents, will allow the hospital or other medical provider to contact your agents when a decision about your care or finances needs to be made.