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New and part-time residents must make sure Florida is home

Florida is famous for being a destination for retirees and Northerners fleeing winter weather. These recent arrivals and part-time residents may think of Florida as their home, but for purposes of estate planning, they should make sure the law agrees with them.

Estate planning, taxes and other areas of the law can vary greatly depending upon a person's state of domicile. Domicile is a legal concept that is essentially based upon a person's intent to stay in the state. A person who is renting a winter home in Florida for a few months but intends to return to another state in the spring is likely not domiciled in Florida as far as the law is concerned. A person who rents or owns a home all year long in Florida may be considered domiciled in Florida, but that isn't necessarily the case, especially if the person owns or rents a residence in another state.

Florida does offer some significant tax advantages over other states, and unlike some other states Florida has no estate tax to get in the way of bestowing an inheritance. To make sure that they can take advantage of these tax provisions, new or part-time Floridians should make sure that their intention to stay in Florida is clear.

One way to do this is by filing a declaration of domicile with a county court. A person can also apply for a Florida Homestead Exemption for tax purposes. Part-time Floridians should also make sure that their intention to leave their old state of domicile is clear. If they retain a membership in a club or organization in their old state, they should consider changing their membership status to non-resident. And they should also make a point of declaring their state of domicile in their wills, trusts or other estate planning documents.

Source: Naples News, "Family Business: Domicile and residence - Is Florida your preferred state?," Kim Kantor, April 10, 2013

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