Declaration of Domicile: All You Need to Know

Declaration of Domicile: All You Need to Know

In today's world, savvy digital nomads and expats are constantly looking for strategies to enhance their lifestyle by optimizing their financial situation. Florida, South Dakota, Texas, and Nevada usually stand out as the prime destinations for those aiming to balance easy and convenient residency with a favorable tax environment. 

This article digs into the intricacies of declaring a domicile (focusing on Florida, but the info provided is valid for just about every state) and how it can serve as a useful step in legally establishing residency in a state that boasts no income, estate, or inheritance taxes, thus paving the way for significant tax advantages and legal benefits.

What is a Declaration of Domicile?

Declaration of Domicile is a formal document that varies by county. You can find an example of it here.

It usually boils down to a brief statement of where your former residence was and where your new residence is, which is then notarized and filed with the Clerk of Court in your new county. The document also contains language stating that the content is truthful under threat of perjury. 

While that may sound very intimidating, the Declaration of Domicile form is used routinely by nomads, full-time RVers, and full-time sailors to point to a specific location within, say, Florida or South Dakota, where they call their legal residence, given that all these classes of citizens travel so frequently. 

For frequent travelers, it is common for your legal residence and “place you spend most of your time” not to be the same. 

The Declaration of Domicile form is not merely a statement of intent; it is a legal affirmation, recorded with the local courthouse, that the individual's primary and permanent residence has changed. 

This is particularly valuable for those relocating from another state or country, aiming to solidify their residency status for various purposes, including legal, tax, and voting considerations. Moreover, for those who own multiple residences, the Declaration of Domicile can help distinguish which of these multiple residences is the primary residence (i.e., domicile), which determines in which state you are a taxable resident. 

While you can have multiple residences, you can only have one legal domicile

Your domicile is generally defined as the place where you live the majority of the year, but it’s not always so simple. 

For example, if you live outside of the US most of the year but want to maintain your citizenship status, you, by necessity, need to have a domicile within one of the fifty states. 

Fortunately, services like SavvyNomad can provide you with a cheap address in states like Florida and South Dakota for a low monthly fee.  

Eligibility and requirements

Who can file a Declaration of Domicile form?

  • Anyone residing in Florida with intent for permanent residence.
  • Includes U.S. citizens and foreign nationals meeting residency criteria.

Filing process

To declare domicile in Florida, individuals typically need to file a sworn Declaration of Domicile with the Clerk of the Court. The specific requirements and process may vary by county but generally include the following:

1. Completion of declaration: The individual must complete a Declaration of Domicile form, which states their intent to maintain a Florida residence as their permanent home.

2. Notarization: The completed form must be signed and notarized in the presence of a notary public or with online notarization tools.

3. Submission and fees: The form and the required fees (typically paid by check) must be mailed to the correct office of the relevant county (usually the Clerk of Court’s office). The fees typically include a recording fee and additional charges for certified copies, payable by cash, credit card, check, or money order. Typically, total fees are under $15. 

4. Submission method: The completed and notarized form can be submitted in person or through mail to the appropriate county office. If submitted by mail, the document must be notarized before sending it. If you use an online notary, you typically can print the notarized form and mail it. It does not need to be sent directly to the county by the online notarization service you used. 

It's important to note that the specific requirements and procedures for declaring domicile may differ by county.

Therefore, you should refer to the resources provided by the Clerk of the Court in your respective county for detailed instructions and forms.

Key benefits of filing a Declaration of Domicile in Florida

Filing a Declaration of Domicile in Florida offers several advantages, particularly in the realms of taxation, estate planning, and legal obligations. 

Florida Domicile benefits and requirements

Below, we outline the significant benefits that underscore the importance of establishing domicile in the Sunshine State.

Tax implications

  • No State Income Tax: Florida is one of seven states that do not levy a state income tax, offering a substantial financial incentive to becoming a resident. 
  • Estate and Inheritance Tax Benefits: Florida does not impose estate or inheritance taxes, which can significantly affect wealth preservation and the transfer of assets to descendants, children, and heirs.
  • Clarification of Legal Status: Filing the declaration provides legal clarity on the domicile for estate planning purposes, helping to ensure that Florida's favorable laws apply to the individual's estate and assets.
  • Homestead Exemption: Florida residents can apply for a Homestead Exemption, which can potentially save thousands of dollars in property taxes and protect the home from certain legal judgments.
  • Asset Protection: Florida offers strong protections for domiciled residents' assets, including the Homestead Exemption (mentioned above). This can safeguard the primary residence against creditors.
  • Reduced Administrative Burden: Establishing a clear legal domicile in Florida can simplify tax filings and reduce the administrative burden of maintaining residency in multiple states.
Florida Residency information

Steps to establishing domicile in Florida

Steps to establishу domicile in Florida

Filing a Declaration of Domicile is just one step of multiple in establishing legal domicile in Florida. Here's a structured breakdown of the entire process:

1) Secure a Florida address

The cornerstone of establishing a domicile is securing a residential address in Florida, whether rented or owned. If renting an actual apartment/home to sit empty is beyond your means/seems like overkill/contributes unnecessarily to the already-existing housing crisis, a mail forwarding service that also provides a residential address steps in as a viable alternative. 

Remember, make sure that as part of your membership, you get not just a PMB (personal mailbox) but also a bona fide residential address. 

If you don’t know, the company’s support staff should be able to answer this question for you. SavvyNomad is one provider that can set you up with a residential address and mail services for a low monthly fee. 

2) Obtain a Florida driver’s license

It’s important to get a Florida driver's license or state ID. Surrendering your former state’s driver’s license is a significant gesture toward showing long-term domicile intent.

3) Register your vehicle(s) in Florida

If you own any cars or boats, registering them in Florida is very important to show long-term intent to domicile. This step also implies that you must get new Florida vehicle insurance.

4) File a declaration of domicile

Filing a Florida declaration form (Florida Declaration of Domicile) in your new county is a recognized but not mandatory way to show your domicile has changed to Florida. Signing this form is especially beneficial when you want to clearly establish Florida as your primary home for legal purposes, such as taxes and estate planning, or if you maintain multiple residences.

5) Voter registration

Register as a voter in Florida. This is a significant leap that shows your intent and willingness to integrate into the state’s social and legal fabric.

6) Update financial accounts

Update the address on your bank and investment accounts, setting them as your Florida address.

7) Maintain Florida as your primary place of residence

While Florida doesn’t have any clear-cut requirements for how many days you need to be inside the state to qualify it as your domicile, maintaining it as your primary residence in third-party and official records shows a clear intent to keep Florida as your home base on a go-forward basis.

Each step adds a new piece to the larger puzzle, demonstrating that while you travel around the country and wider world as a nomad, Florida is still where you call home. Although it requires time and resources, the benefits awaiting you at the end will surely make it all worthwhile.

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How do I prove my Domicile in Florida?

To help prove your domicile is in Florida, you can file a Declaration of Domicile with the clerk of court in the county where you maintain a physical residence. This document requires you to affirm under oath that Florida is your permanent home. 

Supporting evidence such as a Florida driver’s license, utility bills, and voter registration also help establish your physical presence and intent to maintain permanent residency in the state. Finally, you should also sever ties with your former state to the largest extent possible. 

Should I file a declaration of Domicile in Florida?

Filing a Declaration of Domicile in Florida is a significant step for individuals intending to establish residency in the state, especially for tax and estate planning purposes. The declaration is not mandatory for moving to Florida, but it can be beneficial for those seeking to benefit from the state's tax policies and sever ties with their former state for income and estate tax purposes.

While the declaration is not the sole factor in determining domicile, it can be strengthened by taking additional affirmative steps, such as obtaining a Florida driver’s license, registering a vehicle in Florida, registering to vote, opening bank accounts, and securing a new mailing address in Florida.

Where do I get a Florida declaration of Domicile?

You can obtain a Declaration of Domicile form online from the county’s website where you reside in Florida. Once completed, you submit this form to the clerk of court’s office. It's important to have the form properly notarized to be valid.

How long do you have to live in Florida to be considered a resident?

To be considered a resident of Florida, there isn't a set amount of time you need to live there. 

What does it mean to be domiciled in Florida?

Being domiciled in Florida means that you have established the state as your permanent legal residence. In legal terms, it is where you intend to return to and remain, and it can have significant implications for taxation, estate planning, and your eligibility for state-specific benefits like the Homestead Exemption.