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How Can I Make Florida My Domicile?

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Previously, we discussed reasons that moving to Florida may be the best option for you and your loved ones. If you decide to take the leap of faith and start your moving process, you should be aware that you do not just automatically become a Florida resident, at least not legally. In order to take advantage of Florida’s tax benefits and favorable asset protection climate, you must officially make Florida your domicile. While this is not a difficult process, it can be a convoluted one, and it is a good idea to consult an attorney to ensure that you have not missed anything.

Domicile vs Residence

The legal concept of domicile is very different from a residence, because while in theory, a person can have several residences, they can only have one domicile. Domicile is defined in most states, Florida included, as the place where one resides, coupled with the intention to make that residence their permanent home. If you examine this definition, you see two distinct requirements for domicile that have to be met before anything can be official. A person must actually reside in the state (as opposed to simply having property there), and they must be able to show definitive intention to stay living there permanently.

It is very easy to show that you reside in Florida; one can simply present a real estate contract or lease. However, it is much more difficult to demonstrate the subjective intent to stay there permanently – obviously, no one can predict what may happen in the far future, but you can definitely demonstrate that Florida is the center of your social, civic, and economic activity. Establishing community ties can help to cement your intent to make Florida your domicile – for example, registering to vote in Florida, joining community programs, or getting a Florida driver’s license.

Break Ties With Your Old State

If you decide definitively to make Florida your domicile, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that while Florida does want you to effectively establish ties with the state, it is your former home state that will do its best to try and preserve your ties. A big part of the reason that official declaration to make one’s domicile in Florida is recommended is that this is the most effective way to convey to, say, the tax officials in your former state that you no longer intend to reside there. If, for example, you formerly lived in Michigan, and you complete a Florida Declaration of Domicile stating your intent to live in Florida forever, you then are (at least in theory) exempt from taxation in Michigan, though you may need to complete additional paperwork to ensure that this is the case.

The more steps you take to put down roots in Florida, the fewer ties you will have to your former state. Moving your financial accounts to Florida (such as securities, brokerage accounts, and the like), and redoing your estate planning instruments to reference Florida domicile are just two of the examples of things you can do to strengthen your ties to the state. Many of the best options will require the services of a Florida attorney, but this may be another way to reiterate your intentions to stay in Florida permanently.

Contact A Naples Estate Planning Attorney

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:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0200-0299/0222/Sections/0222.17.html

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