The Florida Estate Planning Guide
Supplemental Educational Materials
STEPS TO DECLARE FLORIDA DOMICILE
Below are the steps to consider when establishing Florida residency. There is no bright line test set out by the Florida statutes, and as indicated in Chapter Two escaping your former state’s taxing authorities is as important. Obviously the more of the below you do to establish Florida residency, the less you look like a resident of your former state.
- File a declaration of domicile in Florida;
- Spend as much time outside of your former state as necessary to avoid being labeled a continuing resident of that state;
- If possible, sell, transfer, gift or otherwise convey your principal residence of your former home state. You must be careful with this directive and should do so under the advisement of counsel, as transferring a residence could have gift and estate tax consequences, and if you transfer the residence (to your children) but continue to reside there, you may still be labeled a resident of that state. There are legal strategies available such as a Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRT) you may want to consider;
- Maintain a log of time spent in your former state and elsewhere;
- Obtain a Florida voter’s registration and actually vote in Florida elections. Remove your name from the voting logs of your former home state;
- Obtain a Florida drivers license and surrender your license from your former home state;
- Register your motor vehicles and boats in Florida;
- Declare your home here as your primary residence by filing a Florida homestead declaration (see Appendix C);
- Have all of your credit cards and other important mail list your Florida address as your primary address;
- Execute new wills and trusts as a Florida resident, replacing the wills and trusts from your former home state. Make sure they are signed and notarized in Florida;
- Sign new living wills, health care surrogates and durable powers of attorney as a Florida resident. Revoke prior documents from your former home state;
- File federal tax returns as a Florida resident;
- If you no longer have earned income or income from a business in another state, file a final state income tax return from that state. If you continue to have income that must be taxed in the former state, file your return there as a “non-resident”;
- Do not purchase fishing, hunting or other licenses as an in-state resident of your former home state, even if you continue to own a home there;
- Establish Florida banking and investment accounts, and have the primary address of those accounts list your Florida residence;
- Have Social Security and other direct deposits directed to your Florida banking account, and pay your bills (including automatic bill pay) through your Florida banking account;
- Notify credit card companies, mortgage lenders and other creditors that your primary residence is in Florida;
- Notify all non-Florida social and religious organizations in which you’re a member that you are a Florida resident, and if possible assume non-resident membership or resign. Directory addresses should list your Florida address as your primary;
- Discontinue or refrain from making political contributions to candidates in your former home state;
- Change passport listed address to Florida;
- Join a local church or synagogue, and put your former one on non-resident status
STEPS TO DECLARE HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
The following information is taken directly from the Lee County, Florida Property Appraisers website www.leepa.org. Each county’s information and requirements may be somewhat different. Please refer to your home county when declaring homestead.
Official Timely Filing Period in Florida is January 1 – March 1.
Late filed applications accepted up to 25 days after the mailing of the truth in millage notice (trim notice) – If you believe you may qualify – apply immediately.
Florida law requires that application be made by March 1st (late filed accepted and processed in accordance with current Florida law) to be eligible for up to a $50,000 Homestead Exemption. Only new applicants or those who had a change of residence need apply. Automatic renewals are mailed in January each year.
What is a Homestead Exemption?
Homestead Exemption is a constitutional benefit of up to a $50,000 exemption removed from the assessed value of your property. It is granted to those applicants who possess title to real property and are bona fide Florida residents living in the dwelling and making it their permanent home on January 1. Documentation that proves you were a resident at the homestead property is required.
Rental of the homestead property (exclusive use by a tenant on a temporary, seasonal or annual basis) constitutes abandonment of the homestead – if you plan to rent, contact the Appraiser’s Office to determine your exempt status. Properties granted Homestead Exemption automatically receive the “Save Our Homes” benefit. This is a constitutional benefit approved by the Florida voters in 1992. It places a limitation of 3% on annual assessment increase on Homestead properties beginning with the 1995 tax year. For properties granted Homestead Exemption in the prior years, that assessed value will be the base value for the implementation of “Save Our Homes”. Thereafter, the assessed value will not increase more than 3% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. Exceptions to that limitation include new additions or construction that escaped taxation in the past. Another exception would occur when a homestead property sells: the assessed value returns to fair market value in the year following the sale. That fair market value assessment then becomes the base value for “Save Our Homes” purpose for the new owner/homestead applicant.
Information and documentation is required in order to file for any exemption – permanent Florida residency, ownership and occupancy of the property as your primary homestead property is required as of January 1.
You may file for your homestead exemption by mail, in person or on-line. If filing online, please read on-line filing instructions carefully to determine eligibility. If you are filing by mail, you may download an application form, complete same, attach required documentation and mail the form to our office. If you are not a registered voter and cannot provide a photocopy of your recorded Declaration of Domicile, you must visit the Appraiser’s office to complete this form for recording.
To be eligible to receive the homestead exemption you must own the property (have legal title/interest) and permanently reside on/occupy the property. You must be able to document that you resided at your homestead property as of January 1 by providing proof of issuance of a Florida Driver’s license and Voter registration (both showing the homestead address as the residence address of record). Non-voters must complete a Declaration of Domicile (available in our office). Additional information is required and described below. Please review the following information carefully.
Applicants must hold a valid Florida Driver’s License. If you apply in person, provide the original license at the time you make application. If filing by mail provide a photocopy in lieu of the original. You must provide a photocopy of the front and back of the license. Refer to F.S. 322.19 for requirements for name/address changes associated with your driver’s license or Florida I.D. card. A Florida I.D. Card can be used ONLY if you do not hold a driver’s license in any other jurisdiction.
(A “Valid in Florida ONLY” license is not acceptable).
Florida vehicle license plate (tag) number is required and must be registered in the name of each applicant. If you own multiple vehicles, at least one vehicle must be registered in Florida. Leased vehicles must be registered in Florida. Company owned vehicles do not require Florida registration (license tags).
If you ARE a U.S. Citizen – provide your Florida Voter’s Registration Card or, if you do not vote, you will be required to complete and record a Declaration of Domicile. Your voter ID address must be that of your new homestead address. If you have not already recorded a domicile, you may obtain the domicile form at the Appraiser’s Office. Non-voters are unable to file on-line.
Proof of U.S. Citizenship may be required. If you are not a U.S. citizen you must possess a valid Permanent Resident Alien Card or proof that your card has been approved. Proof of asylum is also accepted. A Declaration of Domicile must be recorded in Florida. Temporary visas and work visas do not qualify. To apply by mail, you must submit a legible copy of the front and back of your permanent resident card and a copy of the recorded declaration of domicile, which must be issued by January 1.
Social Security Number is required for all applicants and the spouse of all applicants. If married, you must provide your spouse’s Social Security number even though the spouse is not an owner of the property and is not applying for exemption.
Date of birth for applicant(s) is required.
Proof of ownership – copy of tax bill or recorded Deed to prove ownership of the property on which you are making exemption application. Ownership in Trust requires copy of Trust/Certificate of Trust/proof of applicant qualifications as stated in Trust. Trustees must sign the application as Trustee, i.e. John Doe, Trustee of John Doe Trust.
Proof that you (or your spouse) do not receive a residency based exemption or tax credit in another jurisdiction is required. You cannot claim a residency based homestead exemption, tax credit or rollback in any other state or county while receiving the homestead exemption in Florida. In addition, if you are married, your spouse cannot receive exemption, tax credit or rollback in any other jurisdiction unless you have documentary evidence to prove a separation of the family unit.
Section 6 (b) Article VII, FL Constitution states that no more than one exemption shall be allowed to any individual or family unit. To document removal of any other exemptions, a statement from the jurisdiction indicating either there are no residency based benefits being applied, or if there were residency based tax credits or exemptions being applied they have been removed is required. You may use the Out of State Exemption Removal Form to comply with this requirement. You will be asked to sign an affidavit stating that you have been informed of the policy regarding multiple exemptions and that you are responsible for removing any other exemption in order to qualify in Lee County. Additional information may be required.
Upon qualifying for Florida Homestead exemption, any state tax returns filed in your name must be filed as a non-resident or part–time resident of that state in order to continue to qualify as a Florida resident. Contact your CPA or tax preparer for information on filing out of state tax returns once you become a Florida resident. Proof of filing a state return as a part –time or non-resident may be required when updating your exemption qualifications.
Who Is Eligible to File for an Exemption?
Those individuals whose names appear on the deed and who reside on the property as of January 1 and who are bona fide Florida residents as of January 1 are eligible to file. Seasonal or temporary rental of the homestead may be considered abandonment of the homestead exemption – contact the PA Office for information.
Regardless of the type of tenancy, it is recommended that all persons whose names appear on the deed and reside on the property apply for the exemption to safeguard your benefits from ownership changes in the future due to death, divorce or other changes. Properties that are used as rental property (seasonal or annual) do not qualify as homestead property. Please contact the appraiser for more information on rentals.
All residents 65 years of age or older as of Jan 1, whose annual adjusted gross household income does not exceed mandated income limitation may qualify. Income limits are adjusted annually.
$500 Widow/Widower’s Exemption
To file for Widow or Widower’s Exemption you must be a widow or widower prior to January 1st of the tax year and provide proof of your spouse’s death. Divorced persons do not qualify for this exemption.
$500 Disability Exemption – Veteran / Non Veteran
Florida residents who provide proof of total and permanent disability or proof of legal blindness may qualify. Certification from two professionally unrelated Florida physicians or a statement from the Division of Blind Services is required. Income verification is not required. (Physician’s Certification of Disability forms are available in our office or can be downloaded the form: DR-416 Form).
Surviving Spouse of First Responder Who Died in the Line of Duty Exemption
Any real estate that is owned and used as a homestead by the surviving spouse of a first responder who died in the line of duty while employed by the state or any political subdivision of the state, including authorities and special districts, and for whom a letter from the state or appropriate political subdivision of the state, or other authority or special district, has been issued which legally recognizes and certifies that the first responder died in the line of duty while employed as a first responder is exempt from taxation if the first responder and his or her surviving spouse were permanent residents of this state on January 1 of the year in which the first responder died.
Veteran $5,000 Disability Exemption
An honorably discharged ex-service member designated as 10 % through 99% disabled due to war-time or by service connected misfortune may qualify. The surviving spouse of the veteran may also qualify to receive this exemption. (Provide documentation from VA indicating percentage of service connected disability).
Veteran – Total and Permanent Disability Exemption
An honorably discharged veteran with total and permanent service-connected disability may qualify for total exemption of ad-valorem taxes. (Provide documentation from VA stating service-connected total and permanent disability).
Total Exemption of Homestead Property from Ad Valorem Taxation
Section 196.101, F.S. provides that real estate owned by any quadriplegic is exempt from taxation – there is no income limitation for quadriplegics. Paraplegic, hemiplegic, or other totally and permanently disabled persons, who must use a wheel chair for mobility, or are legally blind and produce certification of that fact shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation, income limitation applies, proof of gross income is required and or other official certification of disability is required. (Florida Physician’s Certification of Disability forms are available in our office or can be downloaded from our website).
A homeowner may “port” his Save Our Homes tax benefits to a new residence as long as he establishes his new homestead within two years of abandoning his previous homestead. A valid homestead exemption must have been in place for one of the last two tax years. If the new homestead is more valuable than the old, the homeowner may port up to $500,000 of capped value to the new homestead.
Mobile Home Exemption
If you hold title to a mobile home and the land on which it is situated and the mobile home is permanently affixed to the land, you can make application to the Property Appraiser to have the property appraised as real property. This application requires you to purchase an “RP” sticker from the Tax Collector’s Office. You must make application for the sticker between January 1st and March 1st. Homestead exemption may be allowed if the mobile home meets the above qualifications and the property owner meets the qualifications for the exemption.
When no one individual owns the land, as is the case with some mobile home parks, the park is taxed for the land as a whole (real property) and the improvements to the mobile home are taxed as Tangible Personal Property. However, you still must buy a yearly “MH” tag for the mobile home itself from the Tax Collector’s Office.
Any person who knowingly and willfully gives false information for the purpose of claiming homestead exemption is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one (1) year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. 196.131, F.S.