Snow Birds: Protecting Your Estate While Living In Two States

BOSTON (CBS) – Being a snowbird like my Juncos, six months south and six months north, could be a great life style in retirement but one place will need to be your legal residence. Basically, where are you from? Or even easier, where do you have the right to vote?

And it’s the laws of that state which will dictate your estate planning. If you have lots of money you will want to decide which state would be advantageous to die in.

The Federal exemption, the amount you can give away without incurring federal estate taxes, this year is $5,490,000. So most individuals dying between now and December need only worry about state estate taxes.

Check the estate tax laws of the state you are considering moving to. Fifteen states do levy an estate tax upon death and six states have an inheritance tax.

Massachusetts is one of the 15. The state exemption is now $1 million. So if your estate is larger than $1 million you could owe Massachusetts estate taxes.

Florida, always wanting to lure more residents from the north, does not have an estate tax or an inheritance tax. New Hampshire is the only New England state without an estate tax.

You may own property and pay real estate taxes in both states, have bank accounts in both states, buy insurance in both states, but you only live in one state and you are visiting the other state. Six months and one day determines where you live as well as where you vote.

Owning property in different states may require your heirs to go through the probate process upon your death in more than one state. Setting up a trust and having the trust own the real estate may make the transfer of property easier upon your death.

Snowbirds should also consider executing a Durable Power of Attorney for each state so if they do need legal or financial decisions made by another the documents are in place to help. This is a must do if you have property or bank accounts in both states.

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You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m. and 3:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee’s Money Matters newsletter here.

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