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Many people are new to Florida and many have moved to Southwest Florida over the past year.  Not exactly a new trend but preliminary numbers are showing an acceleration of that trend.  Many immediately ask some variation of the question “Are my out-of-state documents good in Florida?”  The quick answer is that moving across state lines does not invalidate your existing documents from any other state or territory of the United States.  However, a major lifestyle change such as moving to another state may indicate a need to re-examine what you have in place.  If you have no existing documents you should stop reading this and go online to make an appointment with a Florida estate planning attorney.  Everyone else continue reading to learn more about Florida estate planning documents.

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Health care documents when you are new to Florida

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that we all need documents in place to cover unexpected medical events.  Whether it is a killer pandemic, a trip to an emergency room or a new diagnosis, each of us has ever changing health care needs.  If you are new to Florida you should know that you can cover (most of) your bases with an Advance Directive for Health Care.  This document acts in the same role as a living will, a health-care power of attorney, and a health-care surrogate.  You can choose “yes or no” to receiving life support for three conditions: end-stage illness, terminal condition or persistent vegetative state.  You can also say in advance if you would want to be on a feeding tube.  An advance directive for health care also allows you to name your health care surrogate to speak for you with the medical community.  (And you can name successors if your first choice is not available).  You are free to cancel your advance directive at any time by either destroying it or signing a new one to replace it.  Besides the advance directive for health care, if you are in poor health or have a terminal diagnosis you might also wish to have a “DNR” or “do not resuscitate” order by working with your primary doctor.

Financial documents if you are new to Florida

A basic document everyone should have in place (whether they are new to Florida or not) is a durable power of attorney or DPOA.  This allows you to name someone to attend to your finances if you become incapacitated.  As with the advance directive, you may also name successors and you may cancel at any time if you still have mental capacity.  In Florida, since 2011, a DPOA must be effective immediately upon signing.  Of course, your agent does not have to immediately take over paying your bills or filing your taxes until he or she believes you can no longer do so.  Florida DPOAs include a number of “superpowers” which you must initial in order for that superpower to be included.  So you may tailor your DPOA to your liking by only enabling those powers you think are important in your future financial picture.  It is helpful if you have a Florida attorney explain what the various powers mean and why they could become important in your future.

In addition to your DPOA, there are a number of different types of trusts you should consider.  Not everyone needs a trust, and not everyone needs the same type of trust.  The old standard “living trust” or “grantor trust” was important when more of us faced the possibility of estate taxes.  Currently estates under $11.7 million for an individual and $23.4 million per couple are exempt from any federal and Florida estate tax.  The primary benefit of the living trust is moot for now.  However, there are many other trusts that might be worth putting in place.  Each situation is different and you will need informed advice on which trust works for you (if any.)