Thursday, July 5, 2012

Domicile, A Word Attorneys Think About

Non-attorneys probably think in terms of "where I live".  Attorneys think about "where a client is domiciled". On the surface one may seem like a convoluted legal term for the same idea, but that may not be the case.  Whether it be for tax issues, filing a will, executing powers of attorney, I as an attorney need to know where my client is domiciled.  Legally domicile means your principal residence, to which you plan to return. Here is why I care.

State governments are broke, some more than others.  Some states have state estate taxes.  I want to make sure my clients truly live in Wisconsin when planning their documents.  I don't want the IRS or other tax cropping up after the client's death claiming the person was domiciled in that state, possibly subjecting the estate to taxes. I also want to make sure the laws of Wisconsin truly apply to them.

Just because you are in Wisconsin does not mean you are actually domiciled here.  What constitutes domicile?  It depends (yes, lawyers really do say that).  Things I consider include, but are not limited to:

  • where do you vote
  • what state issued your driver's license
  • what local charities do you donate to
  • where are you a member of a religious institution
  • where is your vehicle registered
  • what banks do you use
  • location of doctor, dentist, and other health providers
  • professional license location
Life is not always as it appears to be.  Do you know where you are domiciled?  For those who are relocating for work, life change, etc., it is an important question to ask.  An attorney is a wise place to go for the answer.

No comments: