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What Is Your Domicile & Why It Matters

By Katherine Crowell

May 21, 2020


When planning your estate, it’s important to know which state is your legal domicile.

Why? Because the laws of each of the fifty states of the United States of America are different. The state that has legal control, also known as jurisdiction, over the settlement of your estate is, generally speaking, the state of your legal residence. That’s why knowing where your domicile is at the time of death is important.

The laws of the state of your domicile are, generally speaking, the laws that will apply to your estate.

What’s the legal definition of domicile?

A typical definition of domicile is “a fixed, permanent and principal home to which a person wherever temporarily located always intends to return.”

Often, it’s easy to determine your domicile. Yet, it can get complicated if you have more than one house and/or have businesses and property in more than one state.

You can have more than one residence, but you can only have one domicile. If you’re not sure which state is your domicile, discuss it with your attorney.

Questions to ask about where your domicile is?

Although the definitions of domicile usually refer to a person’s intention, as a practical matter some of the following factors may apply:

  • How many days out of the year do you live in the state?

  • Do you have a residence in the state?

  • Do you own real estate in the state?

  • Do you own other types of property located in the state?

  • Do you file income tax returns in the state?

  • Are you registered to vote in the state?

  • Do you have a driver’s license in the state?

  • Do you own or operate a business in the state?

If you own real estate or tangible personal property in a state other than your domicile, that other state will generally have jurisdiction over that specific property. Make sure you let your attorney know about it.


Excerpt from the book Estate Planning for the Savvy Client: What You Need to Know Before You Meet With Your Lawyer by Mary L. Barrow, Esq.

Copyright ©2020, 2017 by Mary L. Barrow

THIS EXCERPT IS A BRIEF SUMMARY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE ADVICE OF COMPETENT LEGAL COUNSEL FROM AN ATTORNEY ADMITTED OR AUTHORIZED TO PRACTICE LAW IN YOUR JURISDICTION. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR ATTORNEY BEFORE IMPLEMENTING OR CHANGING ANY ESTATE PLANNING STRATEGY.