So many of my clients head south for the winter. I am admittedly immensely jealous of them. However, most often, the annual trip toward warmer weather represents a well-earned payback for decades of overtime, hard work, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears.
I soon hope to take the Florida bar examination and become a Florida-licensed attorney so that I can advise clients in-person while they enjoy their well-deserved enjoyment of warmer weather. By this time next year, I hope I will be able to discuss estate planning over cocktails, pressure-free fishing and almost unlimited naps while giving legal advice.
If you find yourself one of the successful snowbirds we all envy, you may have already begun packing clothes and other necessities. Your car’s oil is likely changed, and you will not pull out of the driveway without a full tank of gas.
Here are four more items to add to your checklist before you lock up your Ohio house and confirm that responsible family and friends are ready to assume oversight of your home for the next several months.
First, ensure that your general/financial power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney documents have been updated since May 2017 and that your family either has copies of those documents or have the 24-hour access number for your attorney (if you have an attorney who provides such a 24-hour access, like my firm does for established clients).
My firm provides clients with laminated cards for clients, their families and their friends that give the holders of the cards access to the financial and healthcare powers of attorney that may be needed when out of town. These documents, if prepared in recent years in Ohio, will be enforceable in any other state while you travel south and after you settle down in Florida or the Carolinas for a multi-month relocation.
Second, living wills should be treated like powers of attorney. Update them and get copies to your kids and friends — or get information/resources from your attorney to give to those family and friends before you leave.
Third, get your last will and testament into the hands of someone with whom you have unquestioned confidence. The original version of that original last will and testament has legal significance and should be held in the hands of the most responsible person you know.
Finally, work with your lawyer to identify every bank, investment, savings, retirement or other type of account to ensure that those accounts are all set up to be payable to your spouse initially (if applicable) and then payable to your kids (if that is your estate plan) upon your death.
Obviously, if you lack these documents or information, I advise that you find an attorney who will conclude your work before you leave town for Florida, South. Carolina, Arizona or Mississippi. Find an attorney you think you may trust, and share your deadlines. What you want can and will be done before you leave town, which can make your well-deserved reprieve from snow and ice even more relaxing.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.