Becoming a Florida Resident – A Check List

By: Mark S. Shipman

Whether you have ceased to be a resident of Connecticut and have, successfully changed your residence is a question of fact.  There are no guarantees that your change will be recognized by Connecticut.  This is especially true if, shortly after leaving, you have a significant financial event.  However, the more indicia of residency that you can establish in Florida, and the longer you can show a disassociation with your former residence, the more likely that Connecticut will be unable to show you are still a resident there. The ensuing list is fairly exhaustive.  I am not an accountant or a tax attorney but have litigated a number of cases involving Connecticut challenges to Florida residencies and have developed a list that addresses many of the issues that Connecticut raises in trying to defeat the change in residence. Trying to do as many of the following things as possible, while it isn’t a sure thing, will give you an excellent chance of establishing your new residence.

  1. Be outside of Connecticut for more than 183 days in a calendar year (i.e., over half the year). You do not have to be in your new state for 183 days you just need to be outside of Connecticut for 183 days.  As an example, a trip to Europe which originates in Florida, but may last 2-3 weeks, does not affect your residency requirement.
  2. For the first year or two, keep a calendar and try and attach as many receipts, as often as possible, showing that you were outside the state for that day as evidence of being outside of the state for 183 days.
  3. If possible, dispose of your former principal residence in Connecticut (by sale, gift to children or by transfer into an LLC.), unless you can clearly show that it is used only as a vacation home and you spend less time there than the residence in Florida.  This is important if your former home is significantly larger in size or more valuable than your Florida residence. If you purchase a Florida residence, file a claim for homestead exemption from real property taxes.
  4. If your residence in Connecticut is not disposed of, and you are not going to use it during your six months absence, turn off nonessential services during periods of non-use.
  5. Move as many personal items, such as family pictures, family heirlooms, art, collections, furniture, clothing, and any other valuable personal items, as possible, to Florida.
  6. Keep a log the days you spend in each state, and keep detailed records of travel itineraries, so you can prove when you were in Florida
  7. Try not to spend significant time in Connecticut, as time spent in a former permanent place of abode may subject you to taxation as a resident in that state (regardless of your domicile being Florida).  Just be careful to treat the former home as a vacation home. Have your mail forwarded from Florida rather than sent directly to your Connecticut address.
  8. Make Florida the home base from which you leave on extended trips and to which you return after the completion of a trip.  Do as much of your entertaining at your Florida residence as possible and try to arrange for family gatherings and reunions to be held there.
  9. Register to vote (and actually vote!) in Florida and have your name stricken from the voting rolls of Connecticut. You can do this by notifying the local Registrar of Voters to remove you from their lists.
  10. Record a “Declaration of Domicile”[1] with the clerk of the circuit court in the county of residence and mail a copy of the declaration to the tax department in Connecticut.
  11. Obtain a Florida driver’s license and send back your Connecticut license.  Florida does not require a complete re-testing, only the vision and hearing tests, if you have a valid license from another state.
  12. Register your cars, boats, and other vehicles in Florida, and surrender the old registrations in Connecticut.
  13. Make sure that Florida is listed as your domicile and residence in all documents containing a recital of residence, including wills and trusts.  You should consult a Florida attorney and have new estate planning documents prepared in Florida. This will also insure that your estate plan conforms to Florida law and will minimize state estate tax.
  14. Execute Florida advance directives such as a living will, designation of healthcare surrogate, and declaration nominating pre-need guardian.
  15. File a final Connecticut tax return as a part-year resident through the day you moved from the state.  Stop filing income and gift tax returns in Connecticut unless you derive income there, in which case you should file as a non-resident using your Florida address.
  16. File federal income tax returns using your new address in Florida as your state of residence and mail the federal returns and payments to the Atlanta Service Center.
  17. If you bank or invest with a National firm, begin using a local branch. If you have a safety deposit box, close it and relocate the items to a bank in Florida. Make sure to have income from Social Security, Stock Dividends, Pensions, Annuities Rents and Royalties, deposited in a Florida Bank.
  18. If you are receiving Social Security checks or automatic deposits, the checks or deposits should be re-directed to a bank in Florida. It can be the Florida Branch of a National Bank or a branch of the bank you were using in Connecticut. However, make sure that your account is transferred to that branch
  19. Notify credit card companies, other creditors and anyone who owes you money, of your new address and instruct all correspondence, bills and/or payments to be mailed to the new address.
  20. Notify all insurance companies of your new address, and advise them that the new address is the place where any automobile or other vehicle covered by insurance is located.
  21. Remove the contents of any safe deposit boxes outside of Florida, surrender the boxes and move the contents to Florida boxes.
  22. Notify all Connecticut social and religious organizations in which you are a member of your change of domicile; and, if possible, assume non-resident membership status or resign.  If there are directories for the Connecticut organizations, they should be changed to show your Florida address.  Become active in the community or in local political organizations.  Don’t make political contributions to candidates in Connecticut.
  23. Use local medical professionals and have your records forwarded to them.
  24. Unless you have already made other arrangements, purchase a cemetery lot or crypt in Florida.
  25. If you are a professional, or licensed by the state, and you intend to continue to work, obtain a license from the appropriate Florida authority.
  26. Change the listed address on your passport to your Florida residence.
  27. Obtain a Florida library card.
  28. If possible, limit active participation in businesses in Connecticut, as well as any substantial investment and/or management of closely held businesses in Connecticut. Passive real estate ownership is OK, but the income derived from the Connecticut real estate is taxable Connecticut income.
  29. If you have memberships in hotel, airline or rental car programs, change any directories to your Florida address.
  30. Indicate in any written communications or oral comments, even if informal, that you consider Florida to be your permanent home. You can put a return address on your emails.
  31. Hold as many family gatherings as possible in Florida instead of Connecticut.
  32. Subscribe to local newspapers in Florida and cancel subscriptions in the old state.
  33. If you have a history of membership in one, join a local church, synagogue or other religious institution.
  34. Resign from (or change your status to non-resident) in any country clubs/dinner clubs in Connecticut.

I have tried to create a checklist from the standpoint of Connecticut. Some of the suggestions will be impractical for you.  They are safe harbors, utilize as many as you can.  I strongly suggest that you, also, consult a Florida attorney who can assist in establishing your Florida residency requirements.

[1] A Florida “Declaration of Domicile” is a document which allows you to declare that you are a bona fide resident of Florida. It is not required to establish your Florida residency, but does put the public on notice that you have indeed made Florida your permanent home. Furthermore, you declare that if you maintain another place residence in some you confirm that your residence in Florida is your predominant and principal home.  The Florida Declaration of Domicile must be signed by you in front of a Notary Public or Deputy Clerk of a Florida court and recorded in the Florida County where you reside. The recording cost is $10.00 for the first page and $8.50 for each additional page.