Estate Planning for Florida Snowbirds from Michigan

If you are a Florida snowbird who hails from Michigan, you know that laws in both states affect many aspects your life. Your estate plan can be particularly impacted. How can you be sure your plan protects your interests and your assets in two different places?

You might think that you need one lawyer in Michigan and another one in Florida to make certain you’re covered in both places — but you don’t. Our trusted estate planning lawyers at BRMM are able to ensure that your estate plan protects you, your family, and your assets in both Michigan and Florida.

There are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account in your estate plan when you divide your time between the two states. Our Michigan clients who are Florida snowbirds often ask these important questions:

Should I Change My Legal Residence to Florida?

One question frequently asked by Florida snowbirds is whether it would be beneficial to change their legal residence from Michigan to Florida. Your state of legal residence — also referred to as your domicile — is extremely important. Changing your domicile can have significant legal implications. Your estate plan might be particularly affected. For example, Florida’s homestead laws offer significant advantages, but also restrictions, compared to Michigan.

There is no simple answer that applies to everyone, all the time. A change of domicile from Michigan to Florida involves a number of considerations. It also is a complex task to make the change. It’s not just a matter of putting your signature on a piece of paper.

When you review your estate plan with a lawyer knowledgeable about the laws of both states, your lawyer will help you make a thorough evaluation of your circumstances and discuss all the considerations and consequences of changing your domicile. Then you will be able to make a decision about your domicile based on what is best for you and your family.

Above all, you should not make a decision to change your state of legal residence without consulting an attorney knowledgeable about the laws in both states and reviewing your estate plan in that context. Changing your residence from Michigan to Florida can have substantial — and unintended — consequences for your estate, especially if you establish Florida residence before your death without having your Michigan estate plan updated to reflect your change of residence. Additionally, it is also important to seek advice from an accountant to determine the tax consequences of changing your domicile.

Is My Michigan Estate Plan Valid in Florida?

Like most states, Florida recognizes the validity of written, properly executed estate plans from another state. So, your Michigan estate plan is still valid, even when you spent part of the year in Florida. However, because specific Florida laws will apply when you are in the state, it’s very important to have your Michigan estate plan reviewed. For example, there may be additional documents that you should have in place and keep with you when you are in Florida.

Changing your legal state of residence from Michigan to Florida can significantly affect your estate plan. If you are a legal resident of Florida on your death, Florida laws will govern distribution of your estate. In some cases, Florida law can override provisions of your will or estate plan. If you have changed your state of residence or are contemplating the change, it’s critical to review your estate plan with a lawyer who knows the laws in both states and can assess the impact on your estate plan of changing your legal residence. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision and make certain your estate plan will fully take effect on your death.

Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives

Your Michigan estate plan likely includes durable powers of attorney for both financial matters and healthcare. A power of attorney for healthcare is also sometimes referred to as an advance directive or patient advocate designation. In both cases, those documents protect your well-being by designating someone to make medical and financial decisions regarding your care in the event you become incapacitated for any reason, even temporarily.

While Michigan documents are likely valid while you are in Florida, there are specific laws that apply to powers of attorney in Florida. Healthcare providers and financial and real estate professionals in Florida are accustomed to working with documents that comply with Florida laws and include all the requirements established by the state. They may be uncertain about the validity of your Michigan documents. That could mean delays in getting your Michigan documents honored in Florida at critical times.

To avoid any question or delay in having a financial or healthcare power of attorney recognized while you are in Florida, the best strategy is to include in your estate plan a set of documents drawn up to comply with the specific requirements of Florida law. Then, there will be no delays in the event medical or financial decisions need to be made quickly. Having a durable financial power of attorney for both states is especially important if you own property and have bank accounts in both places.

Estate and Trust Administration

The laws of Michigan and Florida for trust and estate administration differ substantially in a number of important ways. For example, Florida state law has strict limitations on who may serve as the personal representative of a Florida estate or as trustee of a Florida trust. Other Florida laws can also affect your estate significantly. It is essential to ensure that your estate plan complies with all Florida estate and trust requirements when you spend part of the year in Florida, especially if you have property and assets located there.

BRMM Estate Planning Services for Michigan and Florida

Our experienced estate planning attorneys at BRMM are able assist clients who spent the winter months in Florida, and clients with property or other assets in The Sunshine State. Whether you are contemplating changing your legal residence, wish to make sure your Michigan estate plan protects you while you are in Florida, or would like to create a new estate plan to cover your interests in both states, we are here to help. Call us at (248) 494-4577 or complete our online form to set up a free initial consultation.

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