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Florida Residency and Domicile in Estate Planning

Guardianship

In colloquial speech, the words ‘residency’ and ‘domicile’ are often used synonymously. However, in the legal field, the two mean very different things. One can be a resident of a state without having that state as one’s official domicile, and it can be confusing to determine your status if you need to do so for estate planning or tax purposes. There are no real specific steps one can follow to officially designate Florida your domicile before you start to plan your estate – you must instead commit to establishing long-term ties in the state.

Casual vs Legal

Generally, being a resident is a much more casual status than being domiciled in a location. One can be a resident of a state in a casual sense if they own or rent real estate, or simply spend their time in the area. This describes many of the so-called ‘snowbirds’ who visit Florida each winter, spending a few weeks or months, but do not take any steps to move their legal residence to the state. These people pay taxes in their home state, and if they pass away while they are living in Florida, their estates will still be disbursed according to the laws of their home states as well.

One can have multiple residences, but only one domicile. There are several reasons why one might want to become domiciled in Florida, though not everyone chooses to do so. Some of the most common include Florida’s homestead exemption and favorable tax policies; the state has actually abolished several taxes, including personal income tax and state estate and gift taxes formerly levied after a person’s passing. Florida is a frequent domiciliary destination for those who want to have more of an estate to pass on.

How To Move?

If you are interested in becoming domiciled in Florida, there is not really a process to do so – that is, there is no set number of steps one can complete and then suddenly be officially domiciled in Florida. For estate planning and tax purposes, merely stating that you are domiciled in Florida is usually not sufficient, especially if all your other long-term ties, such as to family, work, or significant assets like real estate are elsewhere. While completing a sworn statement with the relevant clerk of the court in your county will “manifest and evidence” your intent to be domiciled in Florida, this is not enough to settle the issue definitively.

In addition to the sworn statement, courts will weigh several different factors in determining whether you actually intend for Florida to be your domicile. Examples include how much time you spend in Florida each year, where your voter registration is based, where your driver’s license was issued, and any social activity you might have engaged in – for example, attending church, joining social clubs, or sports teams. Anyone may state that they intend to live somewhere; the court will insist on evidence that you mean what you say before agreeing.

Call A Naples Estate Planning Attorney Today

If you have questions, concerns or just want to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your personal legal issues in a confidential setting, contact James R. Nici, the Managing Partner of Nici Law Firm, a Naples estate planning attorney with almost 30 years of legal experience.  This may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Resource:

flsenate.gov/Laws/Constitution#A7S05

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