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Miami, FL 33180

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Changing your domicile to Florida

So-called "snowbirds" - people who winter in the warmer climates of Florida to avoid the freezing temperatures in the North - should consider whether they want to establish Florida as their official domicile. Tax budget cuts have pushed many states to seek further revenue from estate taxes and other fees, a situation that could convince some snowbirds to think about making changes. This estate planning decision could have important tax and wealth distribution implications, particularly for those with multiple homes. Before you formally change your domicile to Florida, though, you must evaluate several aspects of your estate.

First, it is important to realize that domiciles are different from residences. Of course, your home helps establish you as a resident of the state of Florida, but it is only one component of a domicile audit. Tax professionals encourage their clients to take more preventive measures to ensure the acceptance of their domicile paperwork. The initial step in this process is to simply send domicile forms to the clerk at the county courthouse with the help of your accountant. Your federal tax return must come from your new Florida domicile.

Next, declare your new residence in your estate plan. Florida law requires either a family member or a resident of Florida to serve as the executor of your will. If you have named a friend from another state, you may be required to modify your arrangements.

Finally, people seeking domicile in Florida need to file their homestead exemptions in January or February, shortly before tax time. You will need to provide proof of your permanent address, which includes voter and vehicle registration. If you have country club memberships and other club affiliations, you should also change your status to "nonresident" as soon as possible.

Probate and estate planning attorneys can educate and assist those who are seeking a change of domicile to Florida. Consider contacting a qualified legal professional to support you through the domicile change process.

Source: naplesnews.com, "Family business: Domicile and residence - Is Florida your preferred state?" Kim Kantor, April 10, 2013

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