Trust and Estate Complexities for Snowbirds: What You Should Know

Trust and Estate Complexities for Snowbirds: What You Should Know

If you’re a snowbird, be sure your trust and estate issues are taken care of for your loved ones.

Florida is well known for its large population of retired or elderly seasonal residents who split their time between a winter home in the Sunshine State and a summer residence up north. If you are one of the many “snowbirds” who migrate to Florida each year to escape the cold, there are some important considerations when it comes to planning your estate which can help avoid some possibly stressful and costly scenarios for those whom you leave behind.

When a snowbird passes away, that person’s assets are usually split between two different locations governed by different sets of inheritance laws and tax codes. Often, there are beneficiaries of the estate in both locations who feel the estate should be administered there, which leads to competing petitions to administer the estate, considerable time in probate, and at times, costly litigation that could have been otherwise avoided.

Choosing Where To Call Home

The first step to estate planning for snowbirds is understanding how the laws and taxes in your home state differ from those in Florida and then determining which one is the most advantageous to call your domicile. Many part-time Florida residents are not aware that there is a big legal distinction between the terms “residence” and “domicile.” Legally, one can have many residences, but only one domicile. Your domicile is the place where you have legally demonstrated an intent to have a permanent home. If it is not legally clear which state this is, your heirs could find themselves dealing with the probate courts of both states.

Florida’s Sunshine Isn’t The Only Thing Attracting Retirees

The good news for you if you are a snowbird who has fallen in love with your new Florida home is that the Sunshine State offers a lot of legal and financial advantages should you decide to call that residence your domicile. Not only does Florida offer a very healthy homestead exemption, but also there is no state income tax or state estate tax. Conferring with a qualified estate planning attorney will help you determine if making Florida your legal domicile is a good financial decision for both you and your heirs and is the best course in seeing to it that your will or trust has been properly amended to reflect this choice.

The Importance Of Naming An Executor Of Your Estate

While naming an executor in one’s will is sound advice for those who don’t have a second residence in another state, it is of even greater importance for a snowbird who may have family in both Florida and his or her home state. Emotions obviously run very high when a family member has passed away and any ambiguity in how to administer the estate can be compounded by passionate relatives separated by hundreds or thousands of miles trying to take charge of things. When you are considering who would be the most qualified executor, keep in mind that in order to properly administer your estate, he or she will need to be willing and able to travel to your state to execute their duties. A qualified estate planner again is the best choice in proceeding here.

What If You Are An Heir Of A Snowbird Who Has Recently Passed?

As Florida estate litigation attorneys, we have had a lot of experience in helping families through the complexities of administering the estate of elderly relatives whose lives and assets were divided between Florida and one or more other locations. More importantly, we understand the financial and emotional stresses that court delays or unnecessary litigation can put on family members. While we are always prepared to take a case to court, we are experienced in successfully negotiating settlements in a large number of the estate cases we handle.

If you find yourself involved in contentious situation involving the administration of the estate of a Florida resident, we can help. Call us today at (941) 365-2296 or send us a message.