Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Does “Domicile” Matter in Estate Planning?

If you have considered or engaged in estate planning, it may have been your first foray into the legal realm. It can feel like you have arrived in a foreign land. The legal jargon can be as distant from your understanding as if someone was speaking another language. For instance, while you may have heard the term domicile, you may not know what it means or even why it should matter to you. A domicile usually refers to where you live and where you reside with the intention of remaining for the foreseeable future. Your domicile can have significant impacts on estate planning and we will detail some of those potential impacts here.

Does “Domicile” Matter in Estate Planning?

Determining a domicile is not always so straightforward as there are a number of factors that can go into such a determination. Domicile, in general, refers to a person’s permanent home, the place a person resides and will continue to live for the foreseeable future. To complicate the determination further, there is no uniform way or standard used to determine domicile. Your connection to a home or residence will be key. In some states, you may be able to file something such as a “Declaration of Domicile” which, while not dispositive, can act as proof of an intention to make a location your legal domicile.

Why, however, does domicile even matter? Domicile can have a number of significant impacts ranging from tax consequences, to probate and asset protection, as well as other aspects of estate planning. For instance, where you live at the time of your death will play a central role in how your probate estate is administered. This is in no small part due to the fact that your domicile will usually dictate the state law that applies in the probate proceedings.

When drafting your estate plan, knowing what is most likely to be considered your domicile can be extremely important. Homestead laws and elective share laws can significantly vary from state to state and have a pronounced impact on how effectively your estate plan meets its goals. A state’s laws can also impact who can serve as a personal representative of your estate. Should you have a choice in where to establish domicile, considering a state’s estate and probate laws should be a factor and should be reflected in your estate plan.

While most states recognize the validity of a will and other estate planning tools that have been properly drafted according to the laws of another state, a state’s laws can still impact how the estate plan is administered. In certain instances, the laws of a state will override provisions found in your will or in other areas of your estate plan.

Estate Planning Attorneys

Do you have questions about your domicile and how it may impact your estate plan? Talk to the knowledgeable attorneys at Hyden, Miron & Foster. We are here to establish comprehensive estate plans that best meet the needs of our clients by accounting for things such as domicile. Contact us today.

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