New to Sunshine State? Have a Palm Beach Probate Lawyer Review Your Estate Plans

For decades, native Floridians commented on how it seemed “everyone” was moving to South Florida. Recent data lends some truth to that. As Palm Beach probate attorneys, we encourage those who are relocating to Florida from across state lines to consider meeting with a local probate lawyer to review important estate planning documents, such as wills, revocable living wills and durable powers of attorney.Palm Beach probate attorney

As the new year kicks off, it’s a great time for all Floridians – but especially those who moved to Florida in 2018 or within the last couple years – to review their important documents, ensure personal representatives and powers of attorney are up-to-date and that wills and trusts reflect your true intentions and align with Florida law.

An analysis of U.S. Census data by the National Association of Realtors found the No. 1 most common migration pattern in the U.S. was New Yorkers moving to Florida – some 33,400 between 2011 and 2016. Another 16,400 moved from New Jersey, 12,500 from Pennsylvania, nearly 9,000 from Michigan and about 7,800 each from Ohio and Illinois. Many are lured not just by Florida’s beautiful beaches, but also the low personal income tax rate. It’s the most popular destination for people from northern East Coast and Midwest states. 

What New Florida Residents Should Review Estate Plans

Technically, as our Palm Beach probate attorneys can explain, you do not need to convert your estate planning documents to Florida documents when you move from out-of-state. Florida statutes provide that if your will was valid under the state laws of the place where it was executed, it will still be valid in Florida. However, there could be certain aspects of Florida law that may cause problems with an out-of-state will or other important estate planning documents, and a quick review by an estate planning attorney can help ensure your documents won’t cause you (or your family) any problems down the road.

For example, F.S. 732.503 requires any last will and testament to be “self-proved” by having the testator (the person making the will) add their signature before two witnesses as well as a Notary Public, and all three of those individuals must sign the document as well. Unfortunately, a fair amount of wills created out-of-state don’t have a self-proving will. Again, that doesn’t make it invalid, but that does mean that to be entered into Florida probate, at least one of the two people who witnessed the testator sign needs to be tracked down and agree to sign an affidavit attesting they were there when the will was signed. That could mean a lot of additional time and expense if those individuals are out-of-state.

Another element that may create issues is your named personal representative. In Florida, you can’t just choose whoever you want. Per F.S. 733.304, personal representatives can only be:

  • A Florida resident OR
  • A person related to you by blood or certain marital relationships OR
  • A bank or trust company authorized to do business in Florida.

So if the personal representative you have currently named is a friend who lives up north or a bank in Ohio that doesn’t do business in Florida, this needs to be updated.

One more thing that comes up commonly is Florida homestead laws as they relate to revocable living trusts. Palm Beach probate attorneys know that many northerners buy a second home in South Florida, go a few seasons or more as snowbirds and then eventually decide to live here full-time, making their second home now their primary address. The trouble arises when you go to apply for the Florida homestead exemption and the revocable living trust you had drafted elsewhere makes no mention of Florida homestead statutes. In turn, the property appraiser here in Florida is going to reject your application for homestead exemption. It’s a quick fix though: Just have the trust amended with the appropriate language.

If you have questions about your estate planning documents after a recent move to Florida or are simply hoping a lawyer can review them to make certain everything is in proper order, call our offices today.

Call Fort Lauderdale Probate Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

American Migration, Exploring Where People Move Across America, July 2018, Porch.com

More Blog Entries:

A Tale of Two Wills: Fort Lauderdale Probate Lawyer Explains, Nov. 16, 2018, Palm Beach Probate Attorney Blog

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