Living the Life in Texas: Tips for Establishing Domicile

Texas offers its residents several favorable benefits.

We do not have an individual income tax, we do not impose an estate or inheritance tax, and we provide extremely generous protection to individuals from creditor claims.

To share in this good fortune, you just have to be domiciled within our state.  “Domicile” is a legal term.   It means that you have a true fixed and permanent home and principal establishment in Texas.  Whenever you are absent from your Texas home, you must have the intention of returning to it.

Whether you meet the legal definition of domicile depends upon your actions.

You have to take steps to show that your intent is to be domiciled in Texas.  It is not enough to merely move here;  your actions must show that you have the professed desire to remain here.   This is critical if you own real property, such as a vacation home or a previous residence, in another state.

How do you prove intent?  Here are a few suggestions.

Obtain a Texas driver’s license or identification card.  File your federal income tax return using your Texas address.  Acquire Texas license plates for your car. Register to vote in Texas.

Register your boat, motorcycle or other toy in Texas. Change your primary care physician to one in Texas.  Notify your employer (if you have one) that your primary address is in Texas.  If you are a member of a professional society, alumni association, or other organization, go online and change your home address and contact information to your Texas address.

Become involved in a local branch of a charity or join a service organization such as Rotary, Kiwanis or the Lions Club.   Attend a neighborhood church or synagogue and, if it is part of the protocol, formally move your letters or membership.

Was your business incorporated in another state? Consider registering it in Texas as a foreign corporation or merging it with a Texas business.

If you are a trustee, read the Trust document and consider changing the place of administration and applicable law to Texas.

If you buy a home here, either put it in your name or in the name of an entity that is formed, formally doing business in or registered in Texas.  Open utilities in your name and list your Texas address for billing.

Change the billing address on your credit cards to your Texas address.   Keep a calendar of the days you spend in Texas;  your goal is to spend at least 183 days here every calendar year.

Sign a Declaration of Domicile before a notary public.  This formally declares your intent that Texas is your domicile.

Do this and you have a pretty good argument that you reside in Texas and that you intend to continue residing here.  Note, however, that this may not be enough to convince the IRS and other states.  They may consider that you are a part-time resident in multiple states, and try to tax you accordingly.

Virginia Hammerle is President of Hammerle Finley Law Firm and is a 1982 graduate of Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.  Sign up for her newsletter at legaltalktexas@hammerle.com.