Splitting time between two or more places you love is a much-desired retirement dream for many. Some are "snowbirds" – those who live farther north in the United States during the summer and then head to warmer southern or western states for the winter. That allows folks to enjoy gorgeous northern summers while still keeping warm all winter long.

Many people living this lifestyle completely overlook the major impact it can have on their assets when they die. If a snowbird passes away in New York, the laws governing the estate may be totally different than those in Florida, Arizona, or whatever warmer states chosen for the snowy season.

If you split your time between two states, you must choose which state is your true home (also known as your "domicile"). This may be determined by the amount of time you spend in each, as well as other factors. If you're in a situation where you truly can choose, then you really want to work with an experienced attorney to figure out which state's laws are going to be the most advantageous to you and your estate planning, and then work to ensure your choice is formalized.

Laws Differ from State to State

All kinds of factors can influence this decision, such as the property laws of each state, your marital status and even tax rates. For example, Florida doesn't have state estate taxes. This is great, but it does have other taxes that could come into play.

Non-tax considerations should also be considered. Do you have a chronic medical condition? Perhaps there are better specialists in one locale versus the other. If a crisis occurs will you have support in both places? For many, the answer is a clear "no."

When you pass away, your estate can end up going through probate in both states. This can be time consuming and expensive, and you may be able to avoid it by working with Harris Beach to set up a trust or other planning vehicle, depending on the types of property owned. There are some estate planning documents you might want to consider for both states where you spend time. For example, it may be helpful to have medical proxies and financial powers of attorney drawn up in both states to avoid problems and delays.

What Do You Do When You Live In Two States?

Even if you "live" in both states, you are only officially domiciled in one. You are considered a visitor in the other state. A Harris Beach estate planning attorney can help get you up to speed and compare the laws of each state, either with someone on our team or co-counseling with an out-of-state attorney through our numerous national connections.

Allot plenty of time before you head south again to figure out your situation and put an advantageous plan in place. Too often, attorneys receive calls just a couple days before clients leave for their winter home, not allowing time to consider options and have a plan created.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.