"Snowbirds" is a term that has been used for many years to describe people who make the trip south to Florida every fall and stay until spring before returning north for the summer. The state welcomes snowbirds with open arms, as they add a vibrant diversity to Florida's culture, as well as being a boom to local economies. If you are a snowbird, or simply in the process of relocating to Florida from another state, you may wish to consider the effects that establishing a "domicile" in Florida may have on your estate plan.
Domicile can be a tricky term; while it is widely used as a general legal principle, its specifics can vary from state to state. It also often will have a subjective component, as it refers to a person's intent to establish a permanent home. Why is it important? Well, for estate planning purposes, a Florida domicile might be preferable due to the lack of an estate or inheritance tax, as well as the absence of a personal income tax in the state.
The first thing to consider with regard to domicile is what the rules are in the state from which you came. Some state will have statutory definitions of what establishes domicile there, but case law may also affect the outcome of any dispute over the matter. In Florida, the law looks to what the intent of a person is when answering the question of domicile.
While testimony as to one's intent may be helpful, the law tends to give more weight to objective actions that illustrate intent. This means that establishing ties to the state that appear to show intent to remain permanently is important. Registering to vote, getting a Florida driver's license or ID card and registering any vehicles in the state are all steps that will aid in a determination of domicile.
Because of the somewhat subjective nature of the domicile question, you may find it helpful to seek guidance about the estate planning process. Our firm could help you decide if establishing a Florida domicile is the right plan for you, and what steps you need to take to do so. For more information, please see our estate planning website. This could help answer some basic questions while helping individuals understand their rights and potential options to address questions related to estate planning.