Insights - January 29, 2024

A Cautionary Tale of Florida Relocation and Tips for Renouncing New York Domicile/Residency

There are many reasons that Florida continues to attract new residents; however, establishing residency here may not eliminate tax obligations to newcomers’ former home states. It is essential that individuals looking to renounce their domicile/residency follow individual state guidelines to avoid costly mistakes.

By Matthew L. Worsham, LL.M.

Florida is now the fastest-growing state in America, according to 2022 population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. While some are drawn to the sun, warmth, and beaches, others are drawn to Florida’s tax benefits and homestead protections. Regardless of the reasons behind a Florida relocation, new residents need to ensure that they properly abandon their prior residency or risk having to pay taxes to their former home states. This article examines how one Nebraska couple fell into this trap, and it provides tips for renouncing New York domicile/residency.

A Cautionary Tale of Florida Relocation

In Acklie v. Nebraska Department of Revenue, 982 N.W 2d 228 (Ne. 2022), the Nebraska Supreme Court examined whether Duane and Phillis Acklie properly changed their residence from Nebraska to Florida. In 1997, the Acklies’ purchased a residence in Florida and used it for rental income. In 2008, they: moved personal property from Nebraska to their Florida residence; obtained Florida driver’s licenses; registered vehicles in Florida; registered to vote and voted in Florida elections; obtained Florida homestead exemption for their Florida residence; joined a Florida church and Florida country club; and maintained bank accounts in Florida and had statements mailed to their Florida residence. In 2012, the Acklies updated their passports to identify them as Florida residents.

While this is likely enough evidence to establish Florida residency, the Nebraska Department of Revenue found that the Acklies retained connections to Nebraska, including: their daughters resided in Nebraska; they had a vehicle registered in Nebraska; Duane Acklie made various political contributions to Nebraska entities/candidates; he served as board member for Nebraska entities; and in 2015, Duane was named “Nebraskan of the Year” by a Lincoln, Nebraska, based Rotary Club.

The Nebraska court held that the “evidence to support the Acklies’ assertion that they established a new domicile in Florida in 2008 was outweighed by substantial evidence of conduct during the audit period [2010-2014] that was inconsistent with an intention to abandon Nebraska as their domicile.” The Acklies had the burden of proof to show a change of domicile. In this case, while there was conflicting evidence demonstrating two potential domiciles, Nebraska applies a presumption against a change in domicile in such situations. Ultimately, the Acklies were liable for Nebraska income tax from 2010 to 2014, an expensive proposition for the former Nebraskan of the Year’s estate.

The lesson from this case is that one needs to be concerned not only with establishing residency in Florida, but also with abandoning or renouncing residency in the former state of residence. Mr. and Mrs. Acklie certainly followed all the most significant steps lawyers recommend their clients take to establish Florida residency. Wherever a newcomer to the Sunshine state may be coming from, they must not ignore the laws of their former home state.

Effectively Renouncing New York Domicile/Residency

When moving to Florida, the laws of the former domicile/residency control renouncing domicile/residency. While a relatively small number of Nebraskans move to Florida each year, the Sunshine State receives more former New York domiciliaries/residents than any other state. New Yorkers should consider the following guidelines when changing domicile/residency. For New York state tax purposes, a resident of New York is someone who: is domiciled in New York; or is not domiciled in New York but maintains a permanent abode in New York and spends more than 183 days of the taxable year in New York—unless active-duty military. NY Tax L Section 605 (2022).

Domicile is a term of art meaning the permanent residence to which the taxpayer expects to return. If audited, the New York tax authority considers the following “primary factors” when analyzing domicile: home; active business involvement; time; items “near and dear;” and family connections. While analysis of these abstract factors could comprise an entire book, for this article we will only dip our feet into the shallow end.

The “home” factor looks to an individual’s use and maintenance of a New York residence compared to the nature and use patterns of a non-New York residence. For individuals with only one property, this factor is easily analyzed. When a taxpayer maintains multiple residences and has no intention of selling either, the analysis focuses on: size of the residences; value of the residences; nature of the use; and relative maintenance costs. These elements look to establish which residence the taxpayer intends to maintain as “home.”

“Active business involvement” looks to determine how the taxpayer’s income relates to New York. For employees, the individual’s pattern of employment as it relates to compensation received by the taxpayer is analyzed. For business owners, the individual’s participation and/or investment in New York businesses (sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and/or corporations) are reviewed.

“Time” analyzes where the individual spends time throughout the year, focusing on the amount of time spent in New York.

“Items near and dear” determines the location of items that have significant sentimental value to the individual, such as: family heirlooms, works of art, various collections, and personal items that enhance quality of life.

“Family connections” is a subjective factor looking at where the individual’s spouse and minor children, if any, are spending their time (including schooling).


The New York domicile analysis is a fact-intensive mix of objective and subjective standards, including additional secondary factors not discussed here. For individuals looking to renounce their New York domicile, an understanding of the factors and strategy for effectively changing domicile is essential to avoid falling into the same situation as the Acklies.

After a New Yorker effectively renounces domicile but continues to maintain a “permanent place of abode” in New York they must not spend more than 183 days of the taxable year in New York. Although this standard has a nuanced application, it is beyond the scope of this article.

For individuals moving across state lines who plan on keeping some connection to their former home state, let the Acklies’ story serve as a cautionary tale. Each state has complex and nuanced domicile/residency rules. To avoid calamity, one should work with an attorney to come up with a transition plan.

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. This article originally appeared in the Daily Business Review on January 12, 2024.

For additional information or questions regarding Florida relocation and renouncing or declaring domicile, we urge you to contact the author of this article or a representative of Jones Foster here.

About Matthew L. Worsham

Matthew Worsham is a member of Jones Foster's Trust & Estate Litigation and Private Wealth, Wills, Trusts & Estates practice groups and focuses his practice in the areas of probate, guardianship, and trust litigation and trust and estate administration. He represents individual beneficiaries, heirs, fiduciaries, and corporate fiduciaries in probate, guardianship, and trust-related matters, including will and trust contests, trustee/personal representative removal actions, accounting actions, will and trust reformation and modification matters, and elective share cases. Matthew's previous experience includes commercial and employment litigation matters.

Matthew is actively involved in several legal organizations, including the Martin County Bar Association, where he serves as chair of the Wills, Trusts & Estates/Probate Committee. He is also a member of The Florida Bar’s RPPTL Section and Trial Lawyers Section. He holds a Master of Laws degree in Estate Planning from the University of Miami School of Law.

About Jones Foster

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