For years, Florida has enjoyed a reputation as a choice retirement destination. This is due largely to our climate and amenities for older Americans. In truth, our beaches, attractions, and the lack of state income tax make it an attractive place for younger Americans, too. In any case, there are certain steps associated with becoming a Florida resident that you need to know sooner rather than later to ensure you and your family are always protected.
To begin with, it is important to understand two legal concepts: residence and domicile. Basically your place of residence is any home where you live on a recurring basis. It is not necessarily, however, the place where you live most of the time. This means your vacation home in another state may be legally classified as your residence, even if you only use it once or twice a year. A condo that you own in another city where you often stay on business could also be defined as your residence.
The state or county in which you are domiciled is the one where your permanent residence is located. In other words, this is the place you and your family consider home. It is the place where you return from vacations and other time away. It is also the place where your car is registered, where you vote, and where you routinely complete other activities of daily life.
The distinction is critical because the place where you are legally domiciled is a significant factor in estate planning, and Florida is also a preferable venue. How do you become a Florida resident, i.e. a Florida domiciliary? Let us share a bit more with you here in our blog.
The following are key steps for establishing permanent residency or becoming legally domiciled here in Florida:
• Filing a Florida Declaration of Domicile
• Getting a Florida driver’s license
• Registering your car in Florida
• Registering to vote in Florida
• Opening bank accounts in Florida
• Letting any state or local tax agencies where you used to live know that you have moved to Florida
• Applying for the Florida Homestead Exemption, if you bought a house or residence here
• Updating your estate plan in compliance with Florida law
Once you officially become a Florida resident, state laws will govern your estate plan. Therefore, it is important to have a lawyer with experience in the estate planning area review your existing documents to ensure they comply with applicable requirements. Specifically, a Florida estate planning lawyer can provide advice and guidance about durable powers of attorney, choice of personal representative and what you need to do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Note that one critical factor in establishing Florida domicile is stating that fact in your estate planning documents. In other words, if your will from another state says that you are domiciled in that other state (likely a true statement when you made the will), it would behoove you to create a Florida will that states that you are now domiciled in Florida.
If you are new to our state and have not yet found an attorney to review your estate plan or need to create an estate plan for the first time, we are happy to do so. Please call our law firm to schedule a meeting with us at your convenience.