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Getting Ready to Fly South? Estate Planning and Snowbirds

“Because the laws governing estate planning and Medicaid benefits differ from state to state, it is advisable that you have your documents reviewed by an attorney in both states to ensure that they comply with the laws in both places.”


You’ll need to determine if you should see an attorney in your home state or in your winter residence, if you want to create estate planning documents and plan for care in the future.

In what state are you a legal resident? Some factors used to determine residency, include the amount of time spent in each state, your mailing address, what state issues your driver’s license, where your car is registered, where you vote and what address you use to file your income taxes.

Once you determine your state of residence, there are other considerations. Where do you plan on living in the future and where do you think you’ll receive healthcare? If you move south upon retirement but plan on heading back north when you are faced with health issues and need the support of family members, you need to consider those things when making your estate plan.

The laws governing Medicaid vary from state to state. You should have your documents reviewed by attorneys in both your northern and southern residences, to be sure that they comply with the law in both places.

There are also differences in the law for powers of attorney and advance directives, including health care proxies and living will documents. These are important documents and you’ll want to be sure they will work in both states.

For instance, in New York State, the person who is named to make medical decisions is called your agent, while that same role is called a surrogate in Florida. The term used under the law to name a default agent is proxy in Florida.  Although it seems simple, it could lead to confusion and a delay in decision-making at a time when minutes count.

The language listed in your power of attorney will differ state by state as well. If your agent is helping you with long-term care planning, this becomes especially important. You need to make sure that your power of attorney includes all possible powers your agent may need, regardless of whether you are paying privately or applying for Medicaid to cover costs.

Talk with an estate planning attorney about your travel plans and make sure that your documents are all in order, before taking off for a warm winter.

Reference: TBR Newsmedia (Sep. 3, 2018) Estate planning tips for snowbirds

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