One of the most common questions people ask when they learn that I am an estate planning attorney with offices in both Indianapolis, Indiana and Naples, Florida is “Are there advantages to becoming a resident of Florida?”

Beyond the obvious lifestyle benefits afforded those who live in a warm climate, Florida domicile can provide a vast array of financial benefits as well.

From my perspective as an estate planning attorney, the income tax, property tax, estate tax and asset protection planning advantages of Florida domicile make Florida the ideal place to live, whether you are still working or are retired.

But what happens if you have more than one home? How do you officially become a Florida resident? First, it’s important to understand that your state of “domicile” is not necessarily the same as your state of “residence.”

While you can have only one state of domicile, you may have residences in several states or be a “resident” of more than one state. To establish domicile in Florida, you must maintain a residence within the state and you must intend to make Florida your permanent home.

You have likely heard that there are many more requirements to establish Florida domicile, but that’s not actually the case. Domicile is really a question of whether you intend to make Florida home. Courts often look to more objective factors to determine your true intent.

In many instances the issue is not just the steps an individual has taken to become a Florida resident, but rather the steps they have taken to divorce themselves from their northern abode.

The following are some of the objective factors that are often relied upon by courts when determining a person’s true intent to become domiciled in Florida:

  • File a Declaration of Domicile in your Florida county of residence
  • Register your automobiles in Florida
  • Obtain your Florida driver’s license
  • Register to vote in Florida
  • Apply for the Florida homestead exemption
  • Use your Florida address in correspondence with State agencies, the Social Security Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service
  • Execute estate planning documents that recite your Florida domicile

Although those domiciled in Florida are not subject to Florida income taxes or Florida inheritance taxes, failure to properly change your domicile to Florida can result in claims by your former state of domicile. This can leave you subject to that state’s income and inheritance taxes. In order to avoid future conflicting claims by taxing authorities, it is crucial to clearly establish your new domicile in Florida and to eliminate any argument that you are domiciled in another state.

The decision to domicile in Florida is complicated and there are always two sides to every story. While it is obvious that Florida domicile law is important, the specific laws of each state are equally important. For information about your state’s laws concerning domicile and taxation, click here to request state specific domicile information.