07.18.2008
Article

Do You Have Residences In More Than One State?

If you spend time in any given year in residences in different states, somewhere in your travels you also may want to schedule an appointment with your professional tax advisor. One topic for discussion would be the legal concept of domicile.

In simplest terms, a person's domicile is the place where he or she intends to return after leaving another location. The special significance of where a domicile is established is in tax planning. An individual's domicile determines which state's income, gift, and estate tax laws apply, and in which state or states a person, trust, or estate is taxable. The rules that will govern the administration of an estate also depend on the state of domicile. Inadequate attention to establishing and documenting an intended state of domicile could mean that even the best-laid estate plan might go awry because the laws of a different state could apply. The end result could be an unexpected tax burden that otherwise could have been avoided.

Although the basic definition of "domicile" is simple enough, many different criteria may be taken into account in pinpointing a state of domicile. No one factor is controlling, and the states differ in the criteria that they use. The address included in a person's will may be a good indicator of the person's domicile. A nonexhaustive list of other factors would take into account in what state a person votes, registers an automobile, has a driver's license, keeps important personal property, pays state and local income and personal property taxes, last applied for a passport, and keeps the bulk of his or her money. Contrary to the old saying, you can go home again, and it is a good idea to make sure that you and the government agree on where that home is.

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