How to Become a Florida Resident
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To officially become a Florida resident, you must move to Florida, sever as many ties as possible with the state you are leaving, and demonstrate your intention to make Florida your permanent home. Only then can you legitimately benefit from Florida’s generous asset protection laws and lack of an estate tax and individual state income tax. Taking all or most of the steps described in this how to become a Florida resident guide should help you along the way.
Becoming a Florida Resident
Moving to Florida
The first and most obvious step toward becoming a Florida resident is to actually move to Florida with the intention of living in Florida indefinitely and for most of each year. “Most of each year” typically means more than 183 days each year. “Indefinitely” means that you intend, as far as you know, to spend the rest of your life as a permanent resident of Florida (whether you actually end up moving again or not).
Simply owning a second home in Florida, or merely spending the colder months in Florida, will likely not be enough to convince your former state that you are now a permanent Florida resident. Indeed, even if you do spend more than half the year in Florida each year, if you fail to convince the tax authorities in your former state that you have severed enough ties with the state and really intend to be a Florida resident indefinitely, they may claim that your home state—your domicile—has not actually changed.
Why all the fuss? In a nutshell, states that collect a state individual income tax, such as New York and California, don’t usually want their residents (especially their wealthier residents!) to leave because such departures represent a loss in state revenue. Thus the problem isn’t always proving to Florida that you’re a true Florida resident. The problem is often proving to your former state that Florida is now your permanent home. Thus it is crucial to establish key ties with the State of Florida and disconnect yourself as much as you can from your former home.
Proving Your Florida Residency
Although there is no single path toward becoming a Florida resident, there are several tried-and-true methods for providing proof that you have made a permanent move to Florida. Each of these methods—from getting a Florida drivers license to using a credit card to make purchases to updating your estate plan after you move to Florida— contributes to painting an overall picture that you have, as a matter of fact, officially become a Florida resident.
The most common steps toward establishing your Florida residency include the following:
- File a Florida Declaration of Domicile in the office of the circuit court in your county
- Update your will and estate plan to reflect your new Florida residency
- Open one or more bank accounts in Florida
- Get a Florida drivers license
- Register to vote in Florida elections
- Register and insure your vehicles in Florida
- File your federal income taxes with the IRS (and the final individual income tax return in your former state) using your Florida address
- Apply for the Florida homestead exemption if you own a home in Florida
- Relocate your most personal possessions to your home in Florida
Making these connections to Florida goes hand in hand with severing the same ties with your former state. If you keep your vehicles registered and insured in your former state and don’t get a Florida drivers license, for instance, your former state might use that as evidence that you haven’t actually made a truly permanent move to Florida.
Indeed, some states will even closely examine your social ties—for example, where you maintain club memberships, where your minor children live and go to school, and where you keep your most cherished possessions—so it pays to make a clear break that you can easily document along the way. Move those family heirlooms to your Florida home if at all possible. Use your credit card or debit card to make purchases in Florida regularly so you can easily demonstrate how many days you spend in the state each year. Do anything, in other words, that can help prevent your former state from claiming you as a resident for tax purposes.
File the FL Declaration of Domicile
One of the clearest ways to signal your intention to become a Florida resident is to file a Florida Declaration of Domicile in the office of the circuit court in your county. Filing a Florida Declaration of Domicile form doesn’t make you a Florida resident on its own, but combined with other clear attempts to establish key connections with the state of Florida, it can go a long way toward establishing your Florida residency.
In most Florida counties, you can file a Florida Declaration of Domicile in person or by mail, but the forms and recording fees differ a little from county to county.
Learn more at Northwest’s Florida Declaration of Domicile guide.
Choosing Florida Mail Forwarding
If you’re moving to Florida and aren’t likely to regularly travel outside of the state, receiving your mail probably won’t be an issue. For part-time and full-time travelers, however, and for people who spend part of the year in other states, consider hiring a Florida mail forwarding service to help you manage your mail.
What Is a Florida Mail Forwarding Service?
A Florida mail forwarding service provides you with a Florida address where you can receive your personal or business mail. At Northwest, we offer our premium Florida mail forwarding service for $40 a month, a service that includes a stable Florida mailing address at our physical location in Florida, a unique suite number, and a choice between same-day digital scanning and weekly physical mail forwarding. Additionally, we offer a free Florida mail forwarding with registered agent service option for our business clients who hire Northwest to be their Florida registered agent.
Most of our clients choose our digital scanning option when they sign up for our Florida mail forwarding service—a method that allows you to easily view scanned copies of your mail from anywhere in the world through your secure online account. So if you’re living in Florida but intend to visit another state for part of the year, you can use our Florida mail forwarding service to ensure that you can always access your important mail no matter where you are.
Learn more at Northwest’s Florida Mail Forwarding Service page, or click the blue button below to sign up today.