Many people confuse “domicile” with “residence”. Although in some cases the two can be used interchangeably, ultimately domicile is a legal term that can impact how you are taxed and where your will is probated after you die. Although you can have more than one residence, you can only have one domicile at any one time.
It is important to clearly establish your domicile, especially if you live in Florida. One reason for this is that since Florida has no state income tax, many people who have winter homes in Florida claim Florida domicile to avoid state taxes in their home state, even though they only spend a few weeks a year in Florida. Other states have gotten wise to this, and many will insist that you prove your Florida domicile if you recently lived in their state.
The Standard for Establishing a Florida Domicile
No one factor is necessarily dispositive of domicile — in other words, buying a house in Florida won’t necessarily prove a Florida domicile all by itself. Ultimately, it is a balancing test — all things considered, does it appear that you meet the requirements for Florida domicile? What this means specifically is that:
- Florida is your permanent residence; and
- You intend to remain here indefinitely.
Note that the first requirement is an objective requirement, while the second requirement is a subjective requirement since it involves ascertaining your intentions.
Suggestions for Bolstering Your Case for Florida Domicile
Take as many of the following actions as are practical in order to maximize your chances of being classified as a Florida domiciliary:
- Buy or rent a residence in Florida, and keep the related documents. If you own a residence, file a Homestead Exemption.
- Spend at least six months a year in Florida.
- File a Declaration of Domicile with the court clerk in the Florida county where you live.
- If you drive and own a car, obtain a Florida driver’s license and vehicle registration. Otherwise, obtain a Florida government-issued personal ID.
- Register to vote in Florida.
- Open a bank account in Florida and deposit enough money into it to meet your daily living expenses. Use it regularly.
- Transfer the contents of your safety deposit box to a safety deposit box in a Florida bank.
- Identify yourself as a Florida domiciliary in all estate planning documents such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney.
- Notify the IRS of your new Florida address, and list your Florida address on your federal income tax return. When you file for state taxes, notify your former state that this is your final state tax return.
- Send a change of address form to the post office, and notify your creditors of your new address.
The foregoing list is incomplete — there are many other ways that you might add weight to your claim of Florida domicile.
We’re Here to Serve
If you are unsure about your domicile, or if you have tax or estate planning issues that involve establishing your domicile, contact estate planning attorney Jose Lorenzo by calling (305) 999-5411, completing our online contact form or visiting one of our offices in Coral Gables and Ft. Lauderdale. We handle clients and cases throughout the state of Florida.