New to Florida? Are Your Estate Plan Documents Still Good?

Many people move to Florida. Some move here for the sunshine, warm weather, and the beaches. Others come for new opportunities. We welcome all of you. Many who relocate to Florida are concerned that estate plan documents they had prepared in another state may not be valid in Florida. These documents could include last wills, trusts and advanced directives. Are you concerned whether all your documents need to be prepared again to comply with Florida laws? The answer? It depends.

As a general rule, legal documents that are valid in the state in which they were executed are valid in Florida. Furthermore, there is typically no expiration date on a legal document, unless it states otherwise. This can mean a Last Will, done in conformity with the laws of Alaska in 1954 can still be valid in Florida in 2015.

However, there are some issues that a new resident of Florida should consider. Is your Last Will up to date with your current circumstances? While it may be a valid document, is it relevant to where you are in life? Consider the case of a new marriage, disabilities or death of family members, the general scheme of distributions and the one named to be in charge of your estate management.

An issue to consider is whether the powers given to an Executor (in Florida the term is Personal Representative) encompass enough specific authority to avoid having to incur the cost of asking the court for permission to take certain steps. Some examples can include the power to sell, the power to continue a business or the power to delegate authority.

Another issue to consider is whether the advanced directives have the scope of effectiveness you want to delegate to an agent. Advanced directives are documents that give authority to another person to make decisions on your behalf in case of incapacity (for a durable power of attorney, it is effective upon signing). There are four different advanced directives used in Florida: durable power of attorney, health care surrogate, living will and preneed guardian. Each directive serves a different purpose. Without proper documentation of the powers being delegated, costly guardianship proceedings may be the only option.

There are several other issues to consider when deciding whether to update estate plan documents when changing your residence to Florida. Just remember, it may not be required, but it may be more effective to update older and/or out-of-state documents.