Evidence of Intent to Establish New Domicile

There are several steps that you should take in order to legally establish a new domicile. You should first establish a permanent residence in your new home state. If you own the home you live in New Jersey it is also recommended that you should own your home in Florida. Renting an apartment may make it seem like you do not intend to permanently move to Florida. One change to consider is selling the family home in New Jersey and downsizing to a smaller home in that state. You do not want it to seem like your Florida home is actually your winter vacation home because it is so much smaller in size than the home you are maintaining in your old state.

If you plan to split your time between the new and old state, you will need to avoid the appearance of intent to continue having your old state as your permanent home. Part of establishing domicile in Florida will be acquiring a new permanent residence there but you also must spend the “majority” of the year there. When assessing whether a person is domiciled in one state or another, tax auditors will always look at the number of days spent in a state. Most states operate under the rule that you are domiciled in their state if you are there for more than 183 days in a year. If you think you will be spending close to half the year in each state, you should keep a detailed calendar of when you arrived in and departed from each state as many states will consider any time spent in their state as a full day toward the 183 days necessary to tax you as a domiciliary of that state. If you are traveling from one state to another frequently, you should also keep records of your travel such as airline reservations or toll receipts.

After securing a residence in Florida you should obtain a Florida drivers license. You should also be sure to name Florida as your domicile in your Will and Trust. Other records that support your domicile status in Florida include:

  1. Voter Registration Cards
  2. Vehicle and Boat Registrations
  3. Obtaining memberships in club, charity organizations, and religious institutions in Florida (and discontinuing affiliations in the old state)
  4. Transferring all bank accounts and safe deposit boxes to Florida
  5. File income taxes and personal property in Florida
  6. Change to non-resident status for tax returns filed in old state for income still earned there
  7. Transfer all professional licenses
  8. Find medical providers in Florida

You may also want to consider having family and social gatherings in Florida and transferring all your valuable items of artwork and furniture to your home in Florida. Furthermore, if part of your decision to move to Florida permanently is for health reasons, you may want to have your physician document that he has given you that advice.

The more indicia of residency that you can establish in Florida, and the longer you can show a disassociation with your former residence, the more likely that your previous high tax state will be unable to show you are still a resident there. Many court cases involving tax challenges to Florida residencies have raised numerous factors in trying to defeat the change in residence. We have compiled the below partial list to assist in establishing Florida residency:

  1. Be outside of your old high tax state for more than 183 days in a calendar year (i.e., over half the
    year). You do not have to be in Florida for 183 days you just need to be outside of Your old high
    tax state for 183 days.
  2. For the first year or two, keep a calendar and try and attach as many receipts, as often as
    possible, showing that you were outside the state for that day as evidence of being outside of
    the state for 183 days.
  3. If possible, dispose of your former principal residence in your old high tax state (by sale, gift to
    children or by transfer into an LLC), unless you can clearly show that it is used only as a vacation
    home and you spend less time there than the residence in Florida. This is important if your
    former home is significantly larger in size or more valuable than your Florida residence. If you
    purchase a Florida residence, file a claim for homestead exemption from real property taxes.
  4. If your residence in your old high tax state is not disposed of, and you are not going to use it
    during your six months absence, turn off nonessential services during periods of non-use.
  5. Move as many personal items, such as family pictures, family heirlooms, art, collections,
    furniture, clothing, and any other valuable personal items, as possible, to Florida.
  6. Keep a log the days you spend in each state, and keep detailed records of travel itineraries, so
    you can prove when you were in Florida
  7. Try not to spend significant time in your old high tax state, as time spent in a former permanent
    place of abode may subject you to taxation as a resident in that state (regardless of your
    domicile being Florida). Just be careful to treat the former home as a vacation home. Have your
    mail forwarded from Florida rather than sent directly to your old address.
  8. Make Florida the home base from which you leave on extended trips and to which you return
    after the completion of a trip. Do as much of your entertaining at your Florida residence as
    possible and try to arrange for family gatherings and reunions to be held there.
  9. Register to vote (and actually vote, even if via mail) in Florida and have your name stricken from
    the voting rolls of old state.
  10. Prepare and file a legal “Declaration of Domicile” with the clerk of the Florida county circuit
    court of residence. A Florida “Declaration of Domicile” is a legal document which allows you to
    declare that you are a bona fide resident of Florida. It is not required to establish your Florida
    residency, but does put the public on notice that you have indeed made Florida your permanent
    home. Furthermore, you declare that if you maintain another place residence in some you
    confirm that your residence in Florida is your predominant and principal home.
  11. Obtain a Florida driver’s license and send back your old license. Florida does not require a
    complete re-testing, only the vision and hearing tests, if you have a valid license from another
  12. Register your cars, boats, and other vehicles in Florida, and surrender the old registrations.
  13. Make sure that Florida is listed as your domicile and residence in all documents containing a
    recital of residence, including wills and trusts. You should consult a Florida attorney and have
    new estate planning documents prepared in Florida. This will also insure that your estate plan
    conforms to Florida law and will minimize state estate tax.
  14. Execute Florida advance directives such as a living will, designation of healthcare surrogate, and
    declaration nominating pre-need guardian.
  15. File a final old state tax return as a part-year resident through the day you moved from the
    state. Stop filing income and gift tax returns in your old high tax state unless you derive income
    there, in which case you should file as a non-resident using your Florida address.
  16. File federal income tax returns using your new address in Florida as your state of residence and
    mail the federal returns and payments to the Atlanta Service Center.
  17. If you bank or invest with a National firm, begin using a local branch. If you have a safety deposit
    box, close it and relocate the items to a bank in Florida. Make sure to have income from Social
    Security, Stock Dividends, Pensions, Annuities Rents and Royalties, deposited in a Florida Bank.
  18. If you are receiving Social Security checks or automatic deposits, the checks or deposits should
    be re-directed to a bank in Florida. It can be the Florida Branch of a National Bank or a branch of
    the bank you were using in your old high tax state. However, make sure that your account is
    transferred to that branch
  19. Notify credit card companies, other creditors and anyone who owes you money, of your new
    address and instruct all correspondence, bills and/or payments to be mailed to the new address.
  20. Notify all insurance companies of your new address and advise them that the new address is the
    place where any automobile or other vehicle covered by insurance is located.
  21. Remove the contents of any safe deposit boxes outside of Florida, surrender the boxes and
    move the contents to Florida boxes.
  22. Notify all old state social and religious organizations in which you are a member of your change
    of domicile; and, if possible, assume non-resident membership status or resign. If there are
    directories for the old state organizations, they should be changed to show your Florida address.
    Become active in the community or in local Florida political organizations. Don’t make political
    contributions to candidates in your old high tax state.
  23. Use Florida medical professionals and have your records forwarded to them.
  24. Unless you have already made other arrangements, purchase a cemetery lot or crypt in Florida.
  25. If you are a professional, or licensed by the state, and you intend to continue to work, obtain a
    license from the appropriate Florida authority.
  26. Change the listed address on your passport to your Florida residence.
  27. Obtain a Florida library card.
  28. If possible, limit active participation in businesses in your old high tax state, as well as any
    substantial investment and/or management of closely held businesses in your old high tax state.
    Passive real estate ownership is OK, but the income derived from the real estate is taxable state
  29. If you have memberships in hotel, airline or rental car programs, change any directories to your
    Florida address.
  30. Indicate in any written communications or oral comments, even if informal, that you consider
    Florida to be your permanent home. You can put a return address on your emails.
  31. Hold as many family gatherings as possible in Florida.
  32. Subscribe to local Florida newspapers in Florida and cancel subscriptions in the old state.
  33. If you have a history of membership in one, join a local Florida church, synagogue or other
    religious institution.
  34. Resign from (or change your status to non-resident) in any country clubs/dinner clubs in your
    old high tax state.

The above list is incomplete and some of the suggestions will be impractical for you. We strongly suggest that you consult an experienced Florida licensed attorney who can assist in establishing your Florida residency requirements.