One unique feature of winter in Florida is the arrival of the snowbirds. “Snowbirds” is a term used to describe those who travel from Northern areas of the world to the South in search of warmth. Florida has a reputation for being a snowbird hotspot. We welcome snowbirds as they help our state grow financially. We want to help them out, too. Considering that many snowbirds are elderly, we recommend these retirement and finance tips in ensuring our snowbirds live easy while in the Sunshine State.
Notify your Bank and Credit Card Company
Before you say goodbye to snow and hello to sunshine, it is vital to say hello to your financial institutions. Specifically, telling your bank and credit card companies that you will be traveling and making purchases in other states. This will help your bank and credit card companies know not to freeze or decline any purchases on your account. You can also use mobile banking, which allows you to log in online to your accounts, pay off any bills, or deposit funds into your account.
Secure your Home Before Heading South
Your home up north will be vacant and neglected for many months of the year. Before you head south, make sure your home is prepared to withstand the snowbird season. For your northern home, we recommend you:
- have the water turned off from the main shut-off valve.
- drain out all pipes in your home.
- set your air to about 55 to 65 degrees.
- unplug all electronics and appliances.
- forward all home calls and voicemails.
- ask your cable and internet providers to suspend services for the months you will be gone.
- ask a neighbor or someone you trust to collect or forward your mail.
Secure your Florida Property
Florida is known for its beaches and vast amounts of natural beauty. Because of this, landscaping is a year-round project. Make sure you contract a landscaping company to polish your Florida home. Living in a community with a homeowner’s association helps too. They often oversee the landscaping process for you.
Your real estate property should also be a part of your estate plan. When a snowbird passes away and leaves no estate plan, then the beneficiaries have to go through Florida Probate Court as well as the Probate Courts of all the states the decedent owned property in. Probate and all applicable legal fees can quickly add up. In Florida, even with a Last Will and Testament, probate is still required. The best way to ensure probate avoidance is the creation of a properly funded Living Trust.
A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is an important estate-planning document that, although losing in popularity to a Living Trust, can still provide crucial financial organization. Wills are used to designate who should receive your assets upon your death. The people or charities you designate are called beneficiaries. Wills allow you to appoint someone to become “Personal Representative” of your estate. This person will be responsible for carrying out your last wishes according to what you wrote in the Will. If you have minor children (those under 18 years of age in Florida), you can appoint a Guardian(s) who will care for your children in case of your death. This reduces lawsuits that arise over custody in cases of sudden or unexpected death.
You can also set up a Living Trust, also known as a Revocable Trust. These types of Trusts are used to by-pass probate. This means that upon your death, all assets in the Trust pass to the beneficiaries through the Trust, and not through any court process. Trusts can provide your beneficiaries with asset protection. Upon inheriting any monies or assets through a Trust, the beneficiary enjoys financial protection from future creditors, divorces, and bankruptcy. Living Trusts are fully revocable: the creator can change any terms or completely revoke (cancel) the Trust. Trusts are private documents that unlike Wills do not become a part of the public record.
Claim your Domicile
The common law defines an individual’s domicile as “living in a particular locality with intent to make it a fixed and permanent home.” Many snowbirds end up calling Florida home. The properties they own become their retirement homes. They spend half a year, if not more, in Florida. They know that Florida does not have any state estate or income taxes. If you wish to declare Florida as your domicile, know that every document must be updated to your permanent Florida address. This can range from your driver’s license, voter registration card, club memberships and insurance policies. Once your transition period is over, then our estate planning attorneys can help create an estate plan for your new domicile.
Fun Facts about Snowbirds!
- The term “snowbird” was coined in 1923, to describe seasonal workers who moved south for the winter.
- Florida is not the only snowbird hotspot. Thousands of snowbirds migrate to the climates of Arizona, California, Texas, Hawaii, and Costa Rica.
- Snowbirds have their own magazines. Check out: Snowbirds RV Traveler Magazine, Snowbirds Gulf Coast Magazine, and Winter Texan Times.
- John D. Rockefeller was one of the first snowbirds. He bought a winter property in Ormond Beach, Florida in 1914.
- In Texas, snowbirds are called “winter Texans.”
- From buying groceries, filling up their gas tanks, and working seasonal jobs, snowbirds help the economies of the states they migrate to.
- Considering many snowbirds are ages 50-69, many snowbirds are baby boomers.
- Snowbirds love to blog. Check out: Snowbird RV Trails, Snowbird’s Journey, and Destinations, Detours, and Dreams.
- Many snowbirds rent out their winter properties during the summer.
- Many celebrities are famous Floridian snowbirds. Be sure to find Alice Cooper, Bill Gates, Rod Stewart, Billy Joel, and Tommy Lee Jones enjoying the Floridian winter.
When it comes to the winter, our snowbirds must protect both their northern and southern homes. Let us help you to protect your estate in Florida and provide peace of mind in your sunset years. Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get started on your estate plan.