Hi, I’m Bette Hochberger, CPA, CJMA, and today I will talk about how not to screw up your relocation to Florida. There have been a lot of people moving here in the last couple of years, and there are so many reasons to live here! It’s such a great place, but especially during the pandemic, there’s been a big influx of people. 

I talk to people all the time about why they’re moving, what they need to do to move, and how to do it the right way and not screw it up because, most likely, you have a large financial situation that is part of the reason. I’m not going to say it’s everybody, but usually, there’s a financial incentive for people to move to Florida if they still need to be retired.

For those who don’t know, Florida has no state income tax, so living here is so popular. We get a lot of people coming from up North, especially New York. Also, some people from out West, like California, these higher-income tax states. It seems all you have to do is pick up and leave, and boom, you’re a Florida resident. You’re here, everything is great, and you feel like you’ll never have to pay taxes again.

Well, part of the issue is that there are quite a few steps that you need to take to remove your domicile from your old state and become domiciled in Florida. I usually tell people that Florida doesn’t care that you’re here. Not that we don’t love you or want you to be here, but we don’t have an income tax trying to get claws into your wallet and take your money. So in that regard, Florida doesn’t care if you’re domiciled here. There are other reasons that you want to be domiciled here.

For example, if you buy a primary residence, you’ll want it homesteaded. The state you’re leaving is where you need to be not domiciled any longer. Some places like New York have a declaration of non-domicile that says, I’m leaving, I’m done. You need to take so many steps to not screw up this new Florida residency of yours, so we’re going to go through a couple of what those things are. This is not an exhaustive list. This will not be an ironclad case that says, no way are you still subject to taxes in your old state, but this is a minimum that you should be doing to ensure you’re domiciled in Florida.

First things first, driver’s license. You must move your driver’s license from your old state to Florida. If you’re still in the system of your old state, it’s really hard for you to go then, “Oh yeah, by the way, I moved. I never updated my driver’s license. And oh yeah, I don’t live there. I don’t want to pay taxes anymore.” That’s probably the first thing you should move. Then along with that, your automobile registration. You want to get everything that ties you to that state severed and moved to Florida. Along that same line, voter registration. You want to be on the rolls in your new state of Florida.

Those are some really basic ones. If you don’t buy a house or move here and you’re renting, you want to file a Declaration of Domicile. That’s you basically sticking a flag in the proverbial ground there and saying, “This is where I live. I consider my Florida home my primary residence.” Super important, and you can do it even if you do purchase a home.If you purchase a home here, you’ll also want to file a homestead exemption. The reason for this is that when it’s your primary residence, it will keep your real estate taxes from shooting through the roof every year. It’s a super wonderful benefit of being a Florida resident.

Moving along into some maybe a little bit more puzzling things that you might not think about. You need to update your estate plans. The estate rules change from state to state. You have to update it for the state that you currently live in. So if you move to Florida, you must update it to comply with the Florida rules. You want to establish that you moved your entire life, not just the state documents, but your entire life to Florida. Some of that is going to be reflected in things like doctors. You need a new local doctor. You need a new local dentist. Believe it or not, you need a new local hair person because the state taxing authorities will look and see like, “Okay, did you move to Florida? Oh, but you keep going back to New York because you like to get your nails done there or you like to get your hair done there. Your general doctor you’ve gone to for 20 years is there. You haven’t really left. Your heart is still there, whereas the rest of you live here.” Those are the basic, basic things. You can go and find crazier stuff to deal with.

For example, if you live in Florida and are a Florida resident, you know you can get theme park tickets, especially for Florida residents. The corollary to that is don’t get any of those resident benefits from your former state because now you’re going back on saying, “No, I moved. Well, no, except I really want to go fishing next summer in New York, so I have a fishing license for residents.You can’t do that, you have to make sure you’re moving over everything. You must look through your credit cards and bank statements and ensure that any of those things that tie you to your former state are separated. Again, this isn’t a guarantee, but that’ll get you a lot of the way there to building that case for yourself for having moved correctly to Florida, and hopefully, you won’t screw it up.

This is a service that we also help clients with. Feel free to reach out if it’s something you’re looking at and contemplating. As always, stay safe, and I will see you next time.

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