Sunshine State Promises: 6 New Year’s Resolutions Every Floridian Should Embrace

January 4, 2024

Everyone that lives in Florida knows exactly why they are here. The reasons to love the Sunshine State are endless. Florida is unique in every way – from the iconic American alligator to Kennedy Space Center to crystal blue waters. Not to mention no state income tax for personal income. Everyone wants to visit, especially grandkids that know how close you are to Disneyworld.
If you are one of the roughly half a million people that moved to Florida in 2023, AND decided to make Florida your permanent residence, we have some crucial insider information for you. Below is our list of the top 6 sun-kissed new year’s resolutions that will make a world of difference in your life:

1.) Homestead Benefits.
Have you relocated to Florida in the past year? Have you decided to stop being a snowbird and become a permanent Florida gator? If you are one of the roughly half a million people that moved to Florida in 2023, AND decided to make Florida your permanent residence – you must take advantage of the homestead exemption. The Florida Homestead Exemption is a legal provision designed to reduce property taxes for homeowners who make their primary residence in the state of Florida. The exemption results in a reduction of the property’s assessed value, ultimately lowering the property taxes owed. The homestead exemption can vary by county, but typically the first $25,000 of the assessed value is entirely exempt from property taxes, and an additional exemption of up to $25,000 may apply to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000. Homestead also offers creditor protection during your life and after your death (meaning most creditors cannot take your home away from you, your spouse, or any minor children). Homestead properties also offer special protections to spouses even if their name is not on the title to the property. To qualify for this “homestead exemption” you must fill out an application with your local county property appraiser AND you must own your home as of January 1st of the tax year for which you are applying.

2.) Create a Florida Will or a Trust.
If you relocated to Florida, know that the inheritance laws, especially as they relate to your home, are likely different than where you lived before. That is why it is crucial to create a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) or a Revocable Trust. This will ensure that your loved ones inherit exactly what you want them to inherit (or conversely, not inherit anything if those are your wishes). BEWARE… just writing your Will on a piece of paper will not work. Florida does not recognize holographic (i.e., handwritten) wills. In Florida, the law also requires that you sign the will in front of two or more credible witnesses and a notary public. These witnesses must then sign your will in front of you, as well as in front of the other witnesses. Contact our law firm to get a free consultation on the laws specific to Florida and an estate plan that is tailored to your particular family situation.

3.) No Such Thing as Common-Law Marriage in Florida.
Florida does not recognize any form of common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968. That means unmarried couples in Florida do not have legal spousal rights regardless of how long they have lived together. Specifically, this also means that if you and your partner cohabitate and one of you passes away, the surviving partner has NO inheritance rights to the assets of the deceased partner. The way around this is with proper estate planning where you acknowledge your relationship in a Will or a Trust and specify what inheritance you want to leave to your partner.

4.) Beware of Creepy Critters.
Alligators – Yes, they love Florida too. Especially warm bodies of water and sun-kissed grassy patches. Considering the unique aspects of Florida’s natural environment, it’s essential for Floridian’s to safeguard their homes from potential encounters with snakes, alligators, and mosquitoes. If you want to keep alligators out of your yard, install a fence that is at least four and a half feet tall. Alligators are good climbers – anything lower would not protect you. Although alligators are generally shy of humans, if you do have a close run-in with an alligator that charges at you, run away fast and straight, not zig-zag. Most importantly, do not try to deal with these critters on your own – Florida has a Florida Nuisance Alligator Hotline where people can report nuisance alligators – and have a licensed trapper come out to remove the reptile.
Snakes – Generally, snakes are just as frightened of you as you are of them. Unfortunately, there are no poisons or repellents that work, though some new ‘breakthrough’ is occasionally advertised. The best you can do is seal crevices or openings in your home where snakes like to crawl – door bottoms, weep holes, openings where pipes enter, cracks and spaces under eaves, and do not forget basements and sheds. Keep your yard tidy to reduce snake hiding spots. Keep the grass short and remove debris, such as piles of boards, tin, sticks and leaves on the ground, as well as piles of construction matter such as bricks or stone. Lastly, make sure the snake’s preferred meal is not on the menu in your yard. Get rid of the rodents that snakes like to snack on. You may want to involve a pest control agent, but you definitely want to practice anti-rodent hygiene, including not leaving pet food out for more than an hour, closing trash cans tightly and securing compost in a sealed container.

5.) Beautiful Skin.
Let us stray a bit from finances, taxes, and vermin. If you are new to Florida, the sun is the most important cause of both skin cancer and wrinkles, and those of us in Florida need extra protection due to our close proximity to the equator. Sunscreen helps prevent skin cancers. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer and melanoma. UV radiation is the top risk factor causing these skin cancers. Sunscreen also helps prevent premature aging and hyperpigmentation, aka dark patches. People with darker skin are naturally more susceptible to hyperpigmentation. The years fly by when you are having fun in the sun, so make sure the sun’s effects do not creep up on you.

6.) Embrace Outdoor Wellness.
Resolve to take advantage of Florida’s beautiful weather by engaging in outdoor activities. Whether it is daily walks along the beach, gentle yoga in a scenic park, or exploring nature trails, make a commitment to prioritize your well-being in the great outdoors. Likewise, living in a state surrounded by water presents a unique opportunity to learn or enhance water-based hobbies. Consider taking up kayaking, paddleboarding, or even joining a local sailing club. These activities not only provide exercise but also connect you with the natural beauty of Florida’s waterways. ALWAYS be cautious of potential wildlife encounters, especially in freshwater areas. If the heat is too much for you, remember that many communities in Florida offer senior-friendly fitness classes, such as water aerobics, gentle yoga, Latin dance classes for couples, and so much more. Visit your local community center to find out the list of available classes.

With the gentle rustle of palm leaves overhead and the soothing waves of the Atlantic or Gulf nearby, there is an undeniable sense of renewal in the air. Make it your best year yet by allowing us to alleviate some of the burdens associated with preparing for your golden years. Our exclusive focus lies in estate planning, ensuring you peace of mind regarding the welfare of your family once you are no longer here. Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or to get started with your free consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.