By Bonie Montalvo

Those of us who are Florida residents know that being residents of the Sunshine State has many more advantages that go beyond remarkable weather and pristine beaches. If you are Florida resident, keep reading and rejoice on the benefits at your disposal. If you are not a Florida resident, read below and find out how you too can reap the benefits of being a resident of the Sunshine State.

The main benefits of being a Florida resident have to do with taxation and homestead protection. Florida has one of the most generous homestead laws out there. Under Florida’s homestead law, a creditor cannot claim your home in satisfaction of a debt, unless the creditor is a mortgage lender. For example, if you have completed paid off your house and have outstanding credit card debts, the credit card company cannot force you to sell your home in order to satisfy the debt.

Florida residents that declare their primary residence as their homestead can potentially exempt up to $50,000 of their home’s assessed value from tax liability. The first $25,000 applies to all property taxes, including school district taxes. The additional $25,000 applies to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000 and only to non-school taxes. There’s also the Florida “Save Our Homes” cap on annual assessments. The cap is set at 3 percent or the change in the consumer price index, whichever is lower. Lastly, residents 65 or older are eligible for additional property tax exemptions.

Florida has no state income tax, meaning that at the time you file your income taxes you only file your federal return and you are done. Florida has no estate tax or gift tax on lifetime transfers. However, do be aware that federal estate tax is still applicable (for estates over $11.4M) and that federal gift tax will be due for any gift over $15,000. Further, Florida has no pesky inheritance tax, meaning that a beneficiary is not required to pay taxes on assets they inherit.

Out-of-state residents could save a considerable amount of money by relocating to Florida. As a Florida resident, your home will always be protected, and you will not have to pay state taxes on your income. Relocating to Florida will also save you a substantial amount on estate taxes, meaning that more will be left over for your loved ones.

How to Become a Florida Resident
If you live in Florida, have a job in Florida, and have no association with any other state, you are most likely a Florida resident. However, if you live in Florida “part-time”, have a job out-of-state or own property outside of Florida, you may not be considered a Florida resident. In order to be a Florida resident, you must have a Florida domicile. While a person may have many different residences, a person can only have one domicile. A person is domiciled in Florida if that person intents to make Florida their permanent home. The following are a list of actions that you can take to establish your intent:
. Abandon prior domicile
. Own a home in FL
. File a Declaration of Domicile
. Register your car in FL
. Obtain a FL driver license
. Registering to vote in FL
. Apply for the FL homestead exemption
. Change social memberships to FL
. File federal taxes with FL address
. Remove yourself from prior state phone listing
. File final state taxes with your prior state
. Consider placing non-FL real estate in a trust
. Refrain from requesting discounts available only
to residents of your prior state
. Confirm FL residency in estate planning documents

The most complicated part of the entire process will be convincing your prior estate that you can no longer be taxed there. You are fleeing revenue and they do not want to see you go. You need to convince your prior state that you are no longer residing there and therefore can no longer be taxed there. Some states allow prior residents to file an Affidavit of Non-Domicile, in which the individual must renounce their domicile, if your state allows this, file the affidavit with the proper department as it will serve as further proof that you no longer wish to be considered a resident of that state.

If you have questions about your existing estate planning documents or have further questions on establishing Florida residency contact us at 239-
552-4100. Our estate planning experts are ready to assist you.

Wood, Buckel & Carmichael provides legal representation which encompasses all aspects of real estate law, condominium and homeowner association law, estate planning, trusts and estate administration, corporate and general business law, international tax planning and civil, commercial, business and probate litigation.

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