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Should a Snowbird Establish Florida Residency?

09.02.11 written by

A number of Ohio residents live in Florida for a significant portion of the year. Those individuals may remain Ohio residents or become Florida residents. Here are some factors to consider when determining what needs to be done to become Florida residents.

It is important to understand the difference between “residence” and “domicile.” A person can have only one domicile, but any number of residences in different states. Domicile is defined as actual residence within a particular state combined with the intention of making that state one’s permanent home. In order to establish a new domicile, you must first abandon your old “domicile”, but not necessarily your old “residence.” The law respecting domicile is rather subjective and the ultimate answers to questions raised are frequently not very definitive. The reason is that the determination of domicile is basically a factual finding of the intent of the individual, based upon the external and objective acts which he takes. Thus, there are numerous factors involved, none of which is clearly determinative of the result in and of itself, but all of which have a bearing in pulling together an analysis of “all of the facts and circumstances.”

Although Florida does not have a state income tax or a state estate tax, a person who moves to Florida from Ohio may nevertheless continue to be subject to Ohio taxes if Ohio domicile is not terminated or if Ohio real estate or Ohio tangible personal property is owned. Also, Florida has a homestead exemption for real estate taxes which may be beneficial. In order for an Ohio resident to establish a new domicile in the State of Florida and abandon Ohio domicile, you should do the following types of things:

  • Purchase and establish a residence in Florida.
  • File the Declaration of Domicile in the Circuit Court in the county of new residence certifying that you are a permanent and bona fide resident of Florida.
  • Register to vote in Florida and vote at the next possible election in Florida.
  • Surrender your Ohio driver’s license and license plates.
  • Obtain a new Florida driver’s license.
  • Register your car in Florida and use Florida license plates.
  • Obtain a new car title in Florida when you buy a new car.
  • File your Federal income tax return with the District Director where Florida residents file their Federal income tax returns showing the new Florida address.
  • Cease filing Ohio resident income tax returns.
  • Have a new Will/Trust drafted to comply with Florida law and recite in its first paragraph that you are now domiciled in Florida?
  • Establish a banking relationship in Florida.
  • Have your Social Security checks direct deposited into a Florida bank account.
  • Establish a stockbroker relationship in Florida.
  • Close your Ohio checking and brokerage accounts, or at least change your mailing address for your periodic statements to your Florida address.
  • Use your Florida address for all purposes.
  • Consider opening a safe deposit box in Florida and closing your Ohio box.
  • Spend a significantly greater portion of each year in Florida; that is, be physically present a majority of the time.
  • Do not spend more than 182 nights in Ohio in a calendar year.
  • Dispose of any home in Ohio (or transfer title to a Florida limited liability company).
  • Establish a relationship with a physician and have medical records transferred.
  • Establish religious, social, and professional relationships in Florida.
  • Resign from, or change to non-residence status for clubs, churches, and social organizations in Ohio.

All of these kinds of actions or activities have a bearing on the ultimate legal question which is the intent to reside permanently in the new location. No one of them is of overriding importance, but taken as a whole, these are many of the various factors which are generally reviewed and analyzed. If you are interested in learning more about establishing Florida residency, please contact your legal advisor.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.

James F. Contini II, Esq.
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning,
Trust & Probate Law by the OSBA
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., LPA
158 North Broadway
New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663
Phone: 330-364-3472
Fax: 330-602-3187