Only Florida residents may take advantage of Florida’s liberal asset protection laws. Residency has varying meanings throughout different parts of Florida law. For asset protection purposes, residency means permanent residence, or domicile. A person may have a part-time Florida place of residence and be domiciled in another state.
Whether or not you qualify as a permanent Florida resident depends on whether your circumstances and your actions demonstrate your intent to establish a primary place of residence in the state. . Your primary residence is the place you call “home.” When “going home” means you are returning to your residence in Florida and when your personal mail is sent to your Florida address, then you are probably a Florida resident.
Courts have considered a variety of facts and circumstances indicative of a person’s ties to Florida. When determining if a judgment debtor is domiciled in Florida a court often use definitions and indications of Florida residency taken from both Florida Statutes and Florida’s administrative code. Florida Statute §222.17 states that a person can show intent to maintain a Florida residence as a permanent home by filing a sworn Declaration of Domicile with the clerk of the circuit court. The Statute does not exclude concurrent ownership of a residence in another state provided that primary residence is claimed only in Florida. Florida Statute §196.012 defines a permanent residence as “that place where a person has his or her true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment to which, whenever absent, he or she has the intention of returning.”
Florida Statue §196.015 lists the following relevant factors that may be considered in determining a person’s intent to establish permanent Florida residency:
- Formal declaration of residency (Declaration of Domicile);
- Your designated mailing address;
- Informal statements regarding residency;
- Your place of employment;
- Termation of your previous residency in another state or country;
- Registration to vote in Florida;
- A Florida driver’s license;
- Florida license tags on all of your vehicles;
- Using a Florida address on your federal income tax forms; and/or
- Previously filed Florida intangible tax returns.
Naturally, the longer your ties to Florida, the stronger your claim to Florida residency.
There is no waiting period to establish Florida residency. As soon as you form the intent to make Florida your primary home, you are a Florida resident and you are entitled to Florida’s asset protection benefits. The rules are different in bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy law imposes a two year waiting period before Florida’s exemptions apply in bankruptcy court. If you file bankruptcy you cannot claim Florida exemptions unless you have been a resident for two years or more.