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Moving to Florida: Should I Update My Will?

Sept. 24, 2017

The weather isn’t the only thing that’s different when you move to Florida. The laws are different too, including probate and estate planning issues.

If you head south for your retirement years, the change of location may not invalidate your will, but it’s very likely to complicate your carefully-crafted estate plans in some form. State laws vary, laws change, and families change with time too.

A move is a significant life change

When it comes to estate plans, the general recommendation is to update your plans with each significant life event. While birth, death and marriage are frequent reasons for an update, a move is a major change too.

Common conflicts with out of state wills include:

  • Executor or personal representative designation

  • Marital property laws between states

  • Health care directive or power of attorney differences

  • Improper witnesses

Florida property and estate laws

One law that distinguishes Florida from other states is law concerning your personal representative, also called an executor. In Florida, your representative must either live in state or be a direct relative. If you’ve chosen a lawyer, friend or neighbor from another state, they will be unable to execute your will.

Similarly, state laws about marital property play a role. Florida is an equitable distribution state, while some states are community property states. These terms refer to how a married couple owns property–and how it is divided upon divorce or death.

Revisions not redrafting

The good news is that while select parts of your out of state will may need retooling, the basics are in place and simply need modification to make sure they’re binding under Florida law. For example, if a will is not self-proving by Florida standards (with notarization and two witnesses), you may add affidavits to make sure it meets the local law.

Relocating to a warmer year-round climate is common in older age. Sometimes, it’s a second home as you keep the family house up north. You’ll need your will to be in accordance with the law wherever you claim primary residency, so if you gradually move south, it’s important to update your files to match your new home state.

Keeping up as you settle down

Most wills are still valid across state lines, but minor differences in code will affect how quickly it passes through probate and how Florida will interpret a will from out of state. Wills are often simple documents, but when it comes to making sure your wishes are carried out, there is no margin of error. A single change might have larger consequences that change your carefully set out plans. The best way to avoid issues is to update your will whenever there is a significant life change.