It is no secret that Florida’s beautiful beaches, lack of state income tax and generous homestead exemptions make it a very attractive location to which out-of-staters relocate.
When doing so, these new residents ultimately intend to make Florida their new “domicile” or permanent residence.
While certain folks move entirely into the state, others spend a portion of the year in Florida and the other portion elsewhere. The question then becomes where their domicile is for purposes of determining where they pay state taxes or are eligible for certain state benefits and programs. In such cases, a person must establish an ongoing relationship with Florida and clearly relinquish ties with the prior state to prove residency here.
There are several ways in which a person can establish permanent residency in Florida. And while any one of these options can be used to prove domicile, the more steps taken the easier it would become to prove one’s permanent residence should the need ever arise.
The following are a few simple ways in which a person may establish their domicile in Florida:
Florida Homestead Exemption
There is much overlap between the terms Residency and Homestead in Florida. For a property to be considered a person’s homestead, thereby qualifying for certain benefits as provided for in the Florida Constitution, it must be that person’s main residence or the main residence of that person’s family. (See Art. X, § 4, Fla. Const.)
And conversely, to meet that requirement of being a main residence, the person must be a Florida resident and have actual intent to stay in Florida permanently and reside in that particular property permanently.
When one purchases a home after having moved to the state of Florida, it is advisable to apply for the Florida homestead exemption as soon as possible. Aside from maximizing the real estate tax and asset protection benefits of residing in Florida, establishing Homestead is prima facie evidence of one’s residency in Florida.
Update Estate Planning Documents
It is always advisable to update estate planning documents after major life-changing events. Relocating to another state, in this case, Florida qualifies as a major life-changing event and would result in that state’s laws governing the requirements and interpretation of various estate planning documents. While updating one’s estate planning documents, one would be best served to establish Florida residency by ensuring that the documents clearly assert their Florida address and are executed in Florida in accordance with Florida law requirements.
Apply for a Florida Driver’s License and Register a Vehicle
Typically, when a person moves permanently to Florida, they have 30 days to apply for a Florida driver’s license.
A typical condition of such an application is the need to provide both a valid social security number, as well as, two documents reflecting a Florida address. Successfully securing a Florida driver’s license is usually a good indication that a person’s primary residence is within the state as having more than one license from different states is not permitted.
Another way to establish residency in Florida is to properly register any vehicle, such as your automobile, motorcycle, boat, etc.
Register to Vote in the state of Florida
Registering to vote requires establishing a valid mailing address and is, therefore, a good indicator of one’s residency in the state of Florida. However, even more persuasive would be actually voting when the time comes.
Open an Account at a local Florida Bank
Owning financial accounts outside the state of Florida does not necessarily prove a person is not a legitimate Florida resident.
However, it would be advisable to notify the financial institutions where out-of-state accounts are held of your new Florida address.
Conversely, opening a bank account at a local Florida bank most definitely strengthens one’s position as a Florida state resident.
Notify the Taxing Authorities
It is important to list a current permanent address on federal income tax returns. Therefore, listing a Florida address on a tax return is indicative of being a primary resident. Further, since Florida does not impose a state income tax, it is imperative to notify tax officials from prior states of one’s relocation.
And given the reduction in revenue that state would experience as a result of one’s move to Florida, there may be specific requirements that need to be satisfied to officially terminate one’s residency in the prior state.
File a Florida Declaration of Domicile
A Declaration of Domicile in Florida is an official document that allows a person to formally declare they are a genuine resident of Florida who resides in the state a majority of the time. (See § 222.17, Fla. Stat.) It declares that the individual maintains a home in the state of Florida and intends to make it their permanent location of residence.
When filing such Declaration, the individual must disclose whether they live in any other states. If so, then they must confirm that Florida is their predominant and principal home, it must be signed before a notary public and then must be recorded in the Florida county in which the person resides. There is a small fee associated with this filing and a penalty of five years in prison or a $5,000 fine for submitting false information.
It is important to note that filing a Florida Declaration of Domicile is not required to establish residency in Florida. However, its purpose serves to put the public on notice that a person permanently resides in the state.
Update Mailing Addresses and Enroll Children in Schools
Finally, two additional simple but important ways to establish a Florida residency is to update all mailing addresses to a Florida address.
For example, updating one’s address with credit card companies, utilities, as well as, passports. Secondly, enrolling all school-age children in a Florida school.
While not every item on this list must be satisfied to establish one’s permanent residency in the state of Florida, the extent of one’s argument in proving their residency would depend on their particular circumstance and the reason for proving it to begin with.
However, regardless of how many of these boxes are checked, it’s always important to sever residency ties with your prior state.
If you’re looking for help with issues surrounding your Florida permanent residency, contact our attorney today for a consultation.
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