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A Decedent's State of "Domicile" (i.e. Residency) Matters

Posted: January 5, 2017

The state of a decedent’s domicile affects many aspects of estate administration, such as property rights, distribution of assets, taxes paid and creditors’ rights.  The Wisconsin Department of Revenue defines “domicile” as “a person's true, fixed, and permanent home where a person intends to remain permanently and indefinitely and to which a person has the intention of returning, whenever absent.  It is often referred to as "legal residence."  A person may be physically present or living in one place but maintain a domicile in another. A person has only one domicile at any point in time.”
A decedent’s state of domicile may not be clear if a decedent owned residences in more than one states and split his or her time between multiple states.  For example, Wisconsin residents may own a second home in Florida and split their time between both states.  These “snowbirds” may strategically select whether to be residents of Wisconsin or Florida due to their preference for the laws of one of the states. 

Each state has specific rules that must be followed to legally qualify for residency.  In general, when determining residency, most states look at a variety of many factors including how much time is spent in each state, where the individual votes, where the individual works, where income tax returns are filed, where an individual’s driver’s license is issued, where property is owned, and a host of other factors.  The State of Wisconsin publishes a “Legal Residence (Domicile) Questionnaire” found on the Department of Revenue’s website.  Other states publish similar publications that may be helpful.

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