There are many advantages to being a snowbird. You get to live in 2 different states or countries (if you’re from Canada.) You can avoid the harsh northern winters AND the sweltering heat of the southern summers. You have the best of both worlds.
It is important for snowbirds to have a plan in place to make sure that their life up north is prepared for the extended vacation down south for the winter. Your first priority is to protect and prepare your house for the cold weather and your absence. Activate your alarm systems to prevent theft, lower your heat, stop/forward your mail and unplug your electronics. The protection of your home is just part of the plan. Preparing your legal documents and planning for emergencies are also important for an extended time away from home.
There are many factors to consider regarding estate planning for snowbirds. For instance, Florida hospitals and medical providers may not be familiar with any other states specific laws regarding living wills, powers of attorneys or designation of health care surrogates. They may be hesitant to honor these documents without verifying their validity themselves. This could result in you not receiving much needed health care services while in Florida in a timely manner. You should consider having powers of attorney, designation of health care surrogate and a living will in both states that you reside in to alleviate the risk of delayed health care.
Though you may own property, pay real estate taxes, have bank accounts, register cars, and buy insurance coverage in both states, you really only ever live in ONE state and you are just visiting the other. Owning property in different states may require your heirs to go through the probate process upon your death in more than one state. That can be very time consuming and costly for your heirs. Unfortunately, you do not have the luxury to decide which state you will be spending your last days. As snowbirds, setting up a trust and having the trust own the real estate may make the transfer of the property easier upon your death.
As snowbird season continues, it is highly encouraged that you make sure to have an estate plan in place that clearly documents your health decisions, outlines your wishes and protects your assets. If you don’t have your estate planning done, a qualified Attorney is your go-to person. This will ease stress on your family members in case of an emergency and make your winter vacation more enjoyable knowing that your affairs are in order.