Establishing domicile is a two-step process, including creating yourself as a Florida resident and abandoning the designation of “domicile” in your former state. While most people focus on the “establishing” domicile in Florida, in a majority of cases the concern should focus on abandoning your existing domicile, which is controlled by the laws of the State you are leaving. Mostly States do not want to release a resident’s domicile if they have a state income or estate tax. Those are the states that make the most noise.
As it relates to “establishing” Florida domicile there is not a clear cut test, but a list of factors that and steps that can be taken to establish domicile, including:
- Buying or renting a home in Florida, in order to establish a presence here in Florida
- Filing a Declaration of Residency with the clerk of court of your Florida county
- Register to vote in Florida, and actually vote in Florida
- Use your Florida address on all pertinent documents, i.e., income tax returns, legal documents, bank statements, etc.
- File for Florida’s homestead exemption on your real property
- Obtain a Florida driver’s license and surrender your old driver’s license
- Register your vehicles in Florida
- Update your wills, trusts and other ancillary documents to reflect you are a Florida resident and to be governed by Florida law
- Open bank accounts in Florida, and use them.
- Close your current safety deposit boxes and open new ones in Florida
- Change any memberships, churches, clubs, etc. to Florida
- Update your insurance policies on any items to your Florida address
As you are exiting your current State, consult with your tax advisor on the steps necessary to abandon your existing domicile to ensure if you need to keep records they are kept appropriately to withstand a challenge.
Jenifer Schembri is principal in the firm’s Business & Corporate, Estate Planning, and Tax Law Groups.