February 1, 2020

Home Sweet Florida Home: Establishing Your Domicile in Florida

By Jennifer L. Fulton, Esquire

There’s no place like home . . . and from an estate and tax planning perspective, there is no place to call home like Florida. In addition to all that sunshine, Florida has no state income, fiduciary, estate or inheritance tax, and offers strong constitutional homestead creditor protection, making it a great place to retire.

But you must take proactive steps to establish yourself as a resident of Florida. Some states are reluctant to accept that you have abandoned your domicile with them, and require substantial proof. Some people meet the criteria required in Florida to be a resident, but fail to satisfy another state that they have transferred their domicile to Florida. Each state is different, but New York and New Jersey are two of the most aggressive. There is no such thing as a “complete list” of what one must do persuade your former state that you have established your domicile in Florida, and every state is a little different, but the more you do, the better. In some states, such as California, you should coordinate with an attorney in the state you are leaving and your Florida attorney, to strategize the timing of your changes to correspond with the date you will relinquish domicile. Here are some general guidelines:

•  Obtain a Florida Driver’s license or State ID card, and surrender your license from your former state.

•  Register your automobiles and boats in Florida.

•  Obtain a new passport with your Florida address.

•  Register to vote—and vote—in Florida.

•  File your taxes using your Florida address, and file a final return of any pro-rated state taxes from your former state. If you continue to earn income in another state, file as a non-resident using your Florida address. Notify the Social Security Administration and all former state taxing authorities of your Florida domicile.

•  Create a Florida will and living trust, and in some cases name a Florida resident as trustee.

•  See Florida physicians, and have Florida health care directives and powers of attorney.

•  Change your membership in clubs outside of Florida to non-resident status, or withdraw from membership if residency in that state is required.

•  Transfer your financial accounts to Florida, and change your statement address. Establish a relationship with Florida professionals, such as bankers, financial planners, accountants and attorneys.

•  Spend more than half the year here, and keep a log of which days.

•  File a Declaration of Florida Domicile in your county official records, indicating you intend to be a Florida resident.

•  Establish homestead. If you own and occupy your home as your permanent residence on January 1, you can timely file your application with the county tax assessor through March 1. They will expect you to already have obtained your driver’s license and other Florida documents. Once approved, you will continue to benefit from the homestead tax exemption and cap on increases in real property taxes  annually, for as long as you continue to qualify for the exemption.

•  If you travel (somewhere other than the state from which you are relocating), come and go
from your Florida residence, and keep a log of where you are each day.

Another benefit of updating to a Florida estate plan when you become a resident is that it will save your loved ones the extra expense of proving  to the court that the will was executed, attested and self-proved properly according to the law of the state in which it was drafted, before the Florida court will accept it for probate.

If you are ready to switch from “Snowbird” to “Florida Resident,” let your estate planning attorney help you get started.


Jennifer L. Fulton, Esq., is an attorney of counsel at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas LLP (“SSRGA”), www.SSRGA.com, focusing on Estate Planning, Probate, and Estate and Trust Administration. A member of the Florida Bar since 1996 with a Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University, Fulton works with clients to plan for the milestones of life (college, “adulting”, marriage, children, grandchildren, aging parents, pre- and post-divorce, loss of a spouse, aging, diminished mental capacity) and administration upon death. She can be reached at 561-769-5600 or jfulton@ssrga.com.

This information is provided for general educational purposes and may not apply to your specific situation.  Please consult with an attorney before relying on this information.