Shutdowns and quarantines related to the COVID-19 crisis happened so rapidly in our country that many snowbirds who came to Florida over the winter have found themselves unable to return freely to their primary residence. This is especially true for those who live in extreme hot spots like New York or New Jersey. Even when travel resumes, we’ve heard from clients who are planning to stay in Florida a bit longer for their own safety.
From a legal standpoint, many snowbirds may now be wondering whether their designation documents, such as Powers of Attorney and Living Wills/Healthcare Directives, are valid in states other than where they were originally drafted. They want to know if their wishes will be honored if something happens here in Florida and not at home?
The honest answer is that it depends. Estate planning documents are generally based on state laws. While it’s possible that documents created elsewhere are compatible with the laws here in Florida, it’s still important to have them reviewed for your security and peace of mind.
When we meet with clients who split their time between multiple states, we first review any documents that were previously created and analyze the laws anywhere the client may own or rent real property. If we find that there are significant differences between the states’ laws, we will then work to amend the documents or take additional steps (such as dealing with signature or notary requirements) so that the client ultimately has a set of legal documents in hand that will be honored both here and at home.
We do, however, caution people about creating separate Powers of Attorney or Healthcare Directives for each state where they reside. This action may invalidate one or both of your sets of documents and add confusion for your loved ones, financial advisors, and healthcare providers. When in doubt, the best thing to do is contact an estate planning attorney. An attorney will review what you currently have in place and guide you toward a solution that will ensure your wishes are honored wherever you are if something happens.
If you have additional questions about the effectiveness of your Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directive in a state where you live only part-time, or if you would like to have a brand new plan created so that your wishes are known and that someone of your choosing can make decisions for you if something happens, please contact our Tampa will and estate lawyers at (813) 438-8503 to set up a consultation.