How to Officially Become a Florida Resident

Change your official domicile to Florida

Your "domicile" determines what state you must pay taxes to, and it can make you eligible for state programs and benefits. It's where you live with the intention of making it your permanent residence for an indefinite period of time.

You must choose one state and clearly indicate your choice by establishing key relationships with that state if you spend time in Florida and in one or more other states during the year. You should be able to convince your former state of domicile that you have, in fact, abandoned your residency there and that you've established your new domicile in Florida. All this involves taking several steps.

File a Florida Declaration of Domicile

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The Florida "Declaration of Domicile" is a document that allows you to declare that you're a bona fide resident of Florida. It states that you reside in and maintain a place of residence in the state. You intend to maintain the residence as your permanent home.

You must declare in the document whether you also maintain another place or places of residence in some other state or states. You must confirm that your residence in the State of Florida constitutes your predominant and principal home if you do.

You must sign the Florida Declaration of Domicile must in front of a notary public or the deputy clerk of a Florida court. It must then be recorded in the public records of the Florida county in which you reside. There's a minimal fee for recording.

Signing and recording a Florida Declaration of Domicile isn't required to establish your Florida residency, but it does put the public on notice that you have indeed made Florida your permanent home. The penalty for perjury for falsely signing the Declaration of Domicile is five years in state prison and a $5,000 fine.

Obtain a Florida Driver's License

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You must have a valid Florida driver's license if you drive. Otherwise, it will provide evidence to the state that you're trying to cut ties with that you haven't officially moved. You have 30 days to get one after you file your Florida Declaration of Domicile. You'll need proof of your Social Security number and two documents that show your Florida address. 

The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles will take your driver's license from your former state when you apply. Florida doesn't allow you to have two licenses. Consider getting a Florida non-driver ID card instead if you don't drive.

Register Your Vehicles

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You should also register your automobiles, boats, and other vehicles that are located in Florida with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Florida requires that you take your vehicle to the DMV office for verification of the vehicle identification number. 

And don't neglect to insure your vehicles in Florida. You'll need proof of this for the DMV as well. 

Register to Vote in Florida

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Register to vote in Florida...then actually do so in the next election. Registering is good, but actually voting is even better.

Voter registration books close 30 days before an election, but you can accomplish this when you get your driver's license or non-driver ID card. The DMV should provide you with a voter registration form at the same time. If not, ask for one. 

Open Local Bank Accounts

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Transfer at least one out-of-state financial account to a Florida banking institution. It's a good idea to do this with all your accounts, although some might be located in states you've never lived in. This is OK, but make sure those in your old state or states of residence are transferred. 

Notify Tax Officials

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File final income tax returns in any states where you're required to pay income taxes. Notify those state taxing officials of your move to Florida.

List your Florida address as your residence for federal income tax purposes when you file your return with the Internal Revenue Service. You should also notify the Social Security Administration of your new Florida address.

Apply for the Florida Homestead Exemption

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Apply for the Florida homestead exemption if you purchase a home rather than rent one. This will help to establish your domicile in Florida, and it will also provide real estate tax benefits and asset protection.

The Florida Save Our Home Act provides that $50,000 of your assessed property value is exempt from taxation if you qualify for a homestead exemption. The exemption is $25,000 if property taxes are imposed by a school district. Your property's assessed value is limited to 3% increases per year. 

Update Your Estate Plan

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Florida law will govern your estate planning when you've established that you're a Florida resident, and Florida has some quirky laws with regard to who your personal representative, also known as an executor, can be. Florida law also controls to whom who you can and can't leave your primary homestead residence.

It's important to use Florida professionals, such as attorneys and accountants, to draft these updated estate documents that comply with Florida law. These professionals will understand the ins and outs of the Florida laws that will affect your estate planning, tax planning, and investments.

Remember to Cut Ties With Your Old State

The good news is that Florida will be happy to have you if you declare yourself to be a state resident. The bad news is that you'll have to take specific steps to terminate your "resident status" with the state you're leaving if it collects a state income tax or a state estate tax. It's more likely that your Florida domicile will be respected if you're able to accomplish most of the items on this checklist.

Article Sources

  1. Northwest Registered Agent. "Florida Declaration of Domicile." Accessed Oct. 31, 2020.

  2. YoGovernment. "How to Transfer Your Out of State License in Florida?" Accessed Oct. 31, 2020.

  3. Pinellas County Property Appraiser. "Save Our Homes." Accessed Oct. 31, 2020.