Florida is commonly known as a popular destination for seniors and older adults who have retired and are looking for a place to spend their last years. After all, with beautiful beaches, wonderful weather, and tons of other seniors to live around, for many it is an ideal location.
If you decide to take the plunge and move to sunny Florida, you’re going to have a long checklist of things to do: finding a new place to live, transporting your belongings across state lines, and so on. Don’t forget to put “review estate planning documents” on that list, though.
There are certain financial advantages in Florida that seniors may not find in the state where they currently live. But in order for you or your loved ones to reap the benefits of these advantages, you will likely need to make changes to your estate plan.
Below, we’re going to detail some of those changes you may want to consider making if you move to the Sunshine State.
- Create a New Advanced Directive: In Florida, advanced directives are recognized as valid, even if they are written and signed in different states. So if you’ve already got one, if doesn’t have to be changed or updated. However, a second advanced directive can also be created if you would like speedier care and a more timely distribution of your living will, designation of your health care surrogate, and so on. And, of course, if you haven’t created one already, now is a great time to add this document to your end-of-life plan.
- Create Revocable Trusts: Revocable trusts can be transferred to beneficiaries without going through probate. In many cases, estate planning lawyers and financial consultants recommend putting Florida property into revocable trusts. This is especially useful if you want to easily transfer property to a surviving spouse without waiting for probate to be administered. Transferring through a trust will also allow you to avoid Florida’s documentary stamp tax. These trusts may also be handy for your out-of-state property, especially if beneficiaries of that property still live in your former state of residence.
- Update Your Will: Updating your will every few years is a good habit to have in general. Laws are always changing, and your thoughts on who you want to distribute your estate to after you pass away may change, too. Florida has specific laws about what makes a last will and testament valid. Pay attention to how many witnesses signed your will, as well as to how it was written. Florida does not except handwritten or holographic wills – they will not be seen as valid, even if they were considered valid in other states. For a Florida will to be valid, two witnesses must sign the will (and witness each other signing it), and the will must be notarized. If your will was not executed according to Florida law, your estate will be distributed through the state (which makes the probate process unnecessarily long and complicated, and may not match your final wishes).
- Change Your Personal Representative. One of the things you may need to update is your personal representative. Florida only allows personal representatives to be related to you by blood or marriage if they live out of state. Otherwise, they have to be a Florida resident.
- College Saving Plans: If you are still investing in your children’s higher education, take a look at the Florida 529 Savings Plan. If it is a better deal in Florida than in the previous state you lived in, you may want to consider adjusting your investment.
- Income Tax: Whether you are making the move as a senior or a younger person, it is important to see how Florida tax structures compare to your previous states. You may want to move around or recognize income before moving. In particular, Florida has a 0% state income tax rate. Consult with your financial advisor before and after your big move to determine how you should arrange and recognize your income.
- Adjust Your Financial Plan and Budget: Many couples look to downsize when they retire, but this is not always the case. Look over your new cost of living – it may send your financial plan for a loop.
The biggest message to take away from this post is this: look at Florida’s estate planning laws to see what may be different from your current state. Confused by all the legalese? Reach out to an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. He or she will be able to sit down with you and walk you through any differences, go over your options, and make recommendations.
About the Author:
Christopher Q. Wintter is the President of Wintter & Associates, P.A. , a four-lawyer trust and estate firm. Mr. Wintter is a Florida Bar Board-Certified Expert in Trust and Estate Law. With more than 28 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers Magazine for 2011, 2012, and 2014-2016 in Estate and Trust Litigation, and was selected for inclusion to the Best Lawyers in America in 2016 in the area of Estate and T