Sick of New Jersey’s high taxes and anti-business politics in the state legislature? Then join the growing list of ex-patriots leaving for Florida and the Carolina’s. The most important factor in determining when your domicile has changed from New Jersey to Florida or another state is your state of mind — what you feel inside. It has been stated often that your domicile is the place you always intend to return to whenever you leave.
Here’s a story to illustrate my point. I received a telephone call from a woman who attended a seminar. She proudly stated that she had become a Florida domiciliary over the past winter, having left New Jersey because of taxes (mostly property taxes and income taxes). She said she would like to discuss her estate plan but wouldn’t come in until the spring because she was then “heading home” to New Jersey. Guess what… she was not a domiciliary of the State of Florida, at least not yet.
If you have decided you want to change your domicile, the checklist below should guide you in doing those things that outwardly express what you have decided in your mind. No one item is substantially more important than another.
- File a Declaration of Domicile in the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of your county of domicile in Florida.
- Obtain a Florida driver’s license and plates for your automobile.
- Request the Supervisor of Elections in the State of your former residence to strike your name from the voting records of that state. After you become a legal resident of Florida, for example, contact the County Supervisor of Elections to register to vote in Florida.
- File future federal income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service in Austin, Texas (if you are not including payment) or Charlotte, North Carolina (if you are including payment).
- File for homestead status for your residence. You may file for homestead during the months of January and February in the year after you declare your domicile. This filing is done at the County Property Appraiser’s office.
To further prove your intent to abandon NJ as your home domicile, you will need to keep records of your deed changed, a Florida driver’s license, a Florida automobile registration, your voter’s registration and/or a filed Declaration of Domicile. If the property is jointly owned, both parties must furnish the above proof. Below are a few other steps to take:
- Change your Will or Revocable Trust to recite that you are a resident of Florida. Often there also substantive differences in the laws of the two states that need to be addressed.
- Notify taxing officials in New Jersey of your change of residence.
- Spend as much time in Florida as is practicable. Preferably, spend more than six months per year in Florida, though this is not a strict requirement, but New Jersey seems to think it is.
- Transfer securities and bank accounts from the state of your former residence to Florida. Open a safe deposit box in Florida to hold all your valuables. Change your mailing address to Florida for any out-of-state accounts you maintain.
- Withdraw membership in any club outside of Florida where residence in such state is a prerequisite to holding such membership.
Change club memberships within NJ to “non-resident” memberships, when possible.
- Transfer your religious affiliations to Florida. By this I mean it is quite telling if you are still making large financial contributions to and participating in many activities of your New Jersey place of worship as if you are still a member but claiming to be a member of a local Florida organization.
It is quite easy to become a domiciliary in Florida or elsewhere. You just need to prove it if audited by NJ.
If you have questions about the topic of domicile vs. residence in New Jersey, Florida or elsewhere in the country, contact me toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing or telephone consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Elder Care Attorney