How do I become a Florida Resident?

By Andrew Boyer

A question we regularly receive is "How do I become a Florida Resident".

Firstly, Florida does not have specific rules for residency.  Each case is fact specific.  So let's start with some of the benefits retirees and other citizens seek to establish themselves as Florida Residents and then give you some ways to establish yourself as a Florida Resident.

Benefits of Florida Residency

Homestead Tax Exemption

Florida Residents receive preferential treatment in the valuation of their homestead property in the form of an exemption.  This exemption can translate into hundreds of dollars in savings off your tax bill.

Florida Residents also receive a "Save our Homes Cap"  this "cap" is a limitation on the amount a homestead valuation can be reassessed.  This can have a significant impact on what you pay in property taxes when housing prices rebound.  (In 2013 the cap amounted to 1.7%).  This would mean that if your home last year was valued at $100,000 and the value of the property went up to $120,000 this year, you could only be taxed based on a $101,700 value.

For more information on the specific exemptions and caps to which you may be entitled, visit your local property appraiser's website.

Income Tax and Gift and Estate Tax

Florida Residents pay no state income tax, no state gift tax, and no state estate tax.  Many states levy separate taxes on citizen's income during their lifetimes and on their estates upon their death.  In Florida, this is not the case.  This has the potential for saving significant sums of money in taxes for Florida residents vs. residents of states that do impose these taxes.

Creditor Protection

Florida has about the best homestead creditor protection in the country.  In Florida, generally your homestead property is not subject to the claims of your creditors or the creditors of your estate upon your death.

Ways to Establish Florida Residency

As stated before, Florida has no specific one-size fits all approach to determining who is a resident and who is not a resident.  As defined in Florida Statute 196.012(18) for purposes of the homestead exemption, residence is the place where a person has his or her true, fixed and permanent home and principal establishment to which, whenever absent, he or she has the intention of returning.  A person may have only one permanent residence at a time...

So while there is no clear test to prove one was definitely a resident of Florida, we advise our clients to do as many of the following things as possible to show their intention to become Florida residents:

  1. Obtain a Florida Driver's License or Id card and relinquish a drivers license if you have one from another state
  2. Register a motor vehicle in Florida
  3. Register to Vote in Florida and become active in community and/or religious organizations
  4. Declare domicile through a filing in the public records of the county in which you live
  5. Use a Florida Bank for all or most banking transactions
  6. Notify anyone with whom you deal to send mail and correspondence to your Florida Residence.  This should include the Social Security Administration, the IRS, doctors, financial institutions, etc.
  7. Declare Florida as your residence in your Last Will and Testament.

My favorite advice for clients who are sports fans is to become avid Tampa Bay Rays and/or Buccaneer fans and disavow old loyalties they may have.  So, in summary, while there is no clear rule on what constitutes a Florida resident (and the list above is certainly not all inclusive), it's a good idea to meet with your attorney(s) to determine if Florida Residency is right for you, and if so, what steps should be taken to establish residency.

6 thoughts on "How do I become a Florida Resident?"

  1. rick harmon says:

    My wife an I are having a house built in Florida it should be done some time in march of April we have 2 houses in Minnesota an only have ever home stead one we would like to take the advantage of becoming a Florida resident I am retired on social security disability. My wife is still working Can I homestead this if I am the only one who will file to become a Florida resident. Can my wife homestead the house in Minnesota and in Florida. I understand Florida has no income tax. If I have my retirement check and social security deposited in a Florida bank, I will not have to pay income tax? I have an IRA in MN. I’d like to convert it into a Roth, but I understand that in MN, I’d have to claim the gains as income, but I wouldn’t have to as a Florida resident… is this true? Also I was told that if we would die, and our other two properties in MN our children wouldn’t have to pay capital gains, because it would Florida regulations because we wouldn’t have to pay capital gains, is this true?

    1. Andrew Boyer says:

      Rick, you bring up a lot of good points to be considered in making the big decision on whether or not to make yourself a Florida resident.

      Whether it is for income tax reasons or estate tax reasons, this issue is becoming more and more common as people discover the many benefits of becoming a resident of Florida. Unfortunately, as you are discovering, there is no “one size fits all” approach to making that decision. Also, because you have assets and concerns in Minnesota, you’re going to want to consult with skilled attorney there to determine what impact your current state’s laws will have on your assets should you decide to change residence. Once that determination is made, your Florida Attorney will be able to assist in the transfer, planning, and necessary documents.

      Additionally, many people who spend a lot of time in Florida, prior to changing residence, will opt to create and sign Florida Powers of Attorney and Health Care Documents in the event they are needed while in Florida. And if property is purchased in Florida, the manner in which title is held should be discussed with your Florida Attorney.

      Thank you for your comment and please let me know if you would like a referral to a Minnesota Attorney.

      Since we have connections with skilled Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys all over the Country, we should be able to put you in touch with someone who will be able to help you through those preliminary questions you are going to want answered (having to do with Minnesota Law), then we can pick up after the decision is made to change residency to Florida or be available for your Minnesota attorney to consult with as needed.

  2. Timothy Hrushka says:

    Due to my Dad’s work (first with a missionary organization and then with the military), I grew up overseas mostly in Europe and Asia. When college came around, I spent one year in Georgia (US), one in Hungary, and three in VA. Summer and Christmas breaks were all spent back in Europe or Asia though. I got a GA drivers license, which I understood made me a GA resident. I got a new license when I went to VA because I needed an update to drive my parent’s military-registered vehicles in Germany. I think that made me a VA resident, because I’ve been having to pay VA taxes every year since. Since finishing undergrad I’ve lived in Germany, Taiwan, and Afghanistan (not in the US). With no ties to VA (property or otherwise) and no intent to return, why do I have to keep paying VA taxes?

    I want to switch to Florida where the don’t have income tax, but from my research so far, I understand that I need to prove that I live there. …but I don’t. The truth is I don’t live anywhere in the US–I never really have. Do you know how I can work around this?

    1. Andrew Boyer says:

      Timothy, US Citizen ex-patriots living abroad have an interesting dilemma when it comes to residency. Especially for those states that have state estate (and possibly inheritance) taxes. Because states like Virginia will assume residency even after their citizens leave the state, those citizens are left having to prove they will never have ties again with that state.

      Since they are sometimes not able to establish a domicile in a more advantageous state, like Florida prior to their move, the better course of action for these citizens, like you, may be to explore how to prove to their former state that they are no longer domiciled in that state (and have no intention to be domiciled in the future) and possibly to establish stronger ties to another, more advantageous state using the methods explained in my article.

      I found a very helpful article that may help explain this dilemma.

      http://www.taxesforexpats.com/articles/expat-tax-rules/state-taxes-expat-tax-return.html

      This type of issue has many unique and personalized factors that may or may not apply in every situation. I would strongly encourage you and others in the same position to consult with a legal or tax professional to obtain advice specific to your situation.

  3. Cathy taylor says:

    My husband and I are residents on NH. We do own a home in Bonita Springs FL. I am retired now and I husband plans to retire the end of March. We will be spending more than 6 months total in FL.
    Would we be able to claim FL residency for the beginning of January 2015. We do have a car registered in FL and also a bank account in FL.
    Also would I be able to claim residency prior to my husband?

    Thank you,

    Cathy Taylor

    1. Andrew Boyer says:

      Cathy, Sorry for the delayed response. We have been updating our website. When anyone is considering a legal residence or domicile change, it’s always a good idea to discuss the pro and cons, as well as the main reasons for the change, with your attorney (both in your home state and your soon to be home state). There are many factors to be considered and discussed; each situation is just a little bit different and requires specific advice tailored to the exact goals and needs of the client. Regardless of where the residence/domicile conversation leads you, it is also a good idea to have a second look at estate planning documents to determine if any changes are necessary or advisable because of a move, or even simply because you spend a significant amount of time in Florida. As an example, Attorneys often will advise non-resident “snow birds” to have two sets of state specific medical and financial powers of attorney.

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