“If you are headed somewhere warm to spend the winter months, you will want to be sure you have everything in order before you go.”
“Snowbirds” spend their winters somewhere warm, which usually means they own assets in more than one state. For them, special attention is needed to certain decisions in their estate planning documents, including Wills, Trusts, Power of Attorney, and Advanced Medical Directives, according to a recent article from Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press, “Headed South for the winter? Your estate plan may need some attention.”
If you live in multiple states at different times of the year or own assets like real estate in more than one state, your estate planning documents and overall estate planning strategy need to take this into account. Many people aren’t aware of the need for planning to avoid having their estate go through probate in every state where they own property.
Even if you don’t mind the idea of your estate being administered through probate, a formal court-controlled process, you probably don’t want your loved ones to go through this process in multiple states, which takes time and can be costly.
Another issue for Snowbirds concerns the Power of Attorney documents. Which state these are prepared in and which state’s laws govern the use of these POA documents is more complex than most people expect. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so having this discussion with your estate planning attorney before you travel for the season is critical. Don’t assume you have it all set up and can efficiently deal with it once you arrive at your winter home. The law is a little more complicated than that.
Any time you leave your home state for an extended period, you should bring copies of important legal documents. For most people, this includes your Financial Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, Living Trust, or any other Trusts you may have, Living Will, and a Physician’s Orders for Scope of Treatment Form. This last document is known by different names in different jurisdictions, which is another reason to review these documents with your estate planning attorney.
Will copies of these documents be accepted? This is another question to ask your estate planning attorney. In some cases, a copy will be sufficient for any purpose, while in others, the originals will be needed, regardless of how far away you are from them.
Estate planning documents should be in a safe and secure location, like a fireproof safe or your estate planning attorney’s office. If you are traveling, a set of copies should always travel with you.
Before you head to the airport or pack up for your winter sojourn, call your estate planning attorney to be sure your estate planning documents are all in order. Hopefully, you won’t need any of them, but if you do, you’ll be glad to be prepared.
Reference: Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press (Sep. 13, 2023) “Headed South for the winter? Your estate plan may need some attention”