Establishing Domicile in Texas: Why, How, and Where

Why Domicile Matters

So why does domicile matter? Domicile is an important factor in many determinations including: Insurance (property and health); Income and Estate Taxes; Venues for lawsuits; Voting; Disposition of Assets at Death; Healthcare and Travel as may be determined by state agencies (as was seen during the COVID-19 Pandemic).  Thus, understanding and properly maintaining your domicile can have many important implications and straddling various states can create unintended consequences.

Without conclusively establishing one locale of domicile, an insurance company may have sufficient cause to deny coverage as improperly issued from a state they claim is not your domicile; multiple states may attempt to tax you as a full-time resident; there may be a dispute on which state has authority over your personal property when you pass away; or you may be denied the right to vote. Ensuring that you have sufficient and consistent evidence of where your one place of domicile will be can provide a much better rebuttal to any of the above-mentioned scenarios.  If you are looking to establish yourself in Texas, below find an overview of steps to take to become a Texan.

How To Establish Domicile In Texas

Establishing Domicile in Texas: Why, How, and Where 1

Although there is no universal definition for all purposes, generally, your domicile is where you intend to permanently remain.  If ever examined, it is a fact-based inquiry used to analyze your intentions.  So, how do you establish your domicile in a new place? 

Clearly abandon your prior domicile, severing ties with your prior state of domicile and establish your new domicile. To sever ties with your prior state, it would be important to move all of your personal belongings out of the state and further show your intent that you have moved out of the state in any way possible. 

To establish a new domicile, you need 1) a physical presence, and 2) a truthful, concurrent, intent of making the new state your permanent place of abode—a place when absent, one intends to return.  For some states, like Texas’s, there is not a specific number of days that you must be in the state before you can apply for a driver’s license or register to vote (although there are still other regulations that require you to be in the state for x number of days to, for example, obtain in-state tuition for college.  So, for Texas, rather than only counting the number days, weeks, or months spent in the state, the analysis of domicile involves balancing many factors, focusing on the quality of time spent in your new home state and your intent.

The practical steps involved:

To establish record of your domicile the first item to consider is establishing your new address. Because the laws surrounding domicile are not usually created with full-time RVers in mind, the steps taken to establish domicile should try to track those as if you were selling your house and then buying another brick-and-mortar in Texas.  Thus, the first step is determining your new address.  Will you buy your own property in Texas, stay with a relative, or utilize a mail service address? 

Get your new address

If utilizing the Escapees Mail Service for Texas, you will be provided with a personal mailbox address on Rainbow Drive in Livingston, Texas. Unlike some mail services or a post office box provider, Escapees is an authorized USPS agent to accept mail on your behalf. Once established, this new address can then be recognized by the state of Texas as a valid address for your driver’s license. For a detailed guide on understanding the Escapees mail service, check out other articles and blogs on the Escapees website, including: Escapees Mail Forwarding Service for RVers: How RVers Get Their Mail

Update vehicle information & driver’s license

Establishing Domicile in Texas: Why, How, and Where 2

Once you have secured your new address, then you will need to insure, inspect and then register your vehicles in the county of your new address. For the Escapees Mail Service, this is located in Polk County, Texas and the registration can be done at the local Tax Assessor Collector’s office. Once your vehicle is registered, you can obtain your new Texas driver’s license.

Register to vote & establish connections to your new community

While at the DMV office, you may check to see if they have a new voter registration card (if not, you should be able to find one online). Also, it is important to start establishing professional connections in the local community, such as doctors, dentists, tax advisors, financial planners, creating new (or transferring your prior) connections in social clubs or organizations (e.g. Rotary, Kiwanis, VFW, religious affiliations), creating a gym membership, and storing any of your personal belongings.

Update estate planning documents

Establishing Domicile in Texas: Why, How, and Where 3

You may also consider updating or creating new estate planning documents as your state of domicile. Additionally, when establishing domicile in a new state, it is always a good time to review your estate planning documentation. Given a recent change in lifestyle, location, and changing family, the plans that you may have made years ago will likely need to be updated.  When you pass away, the state law of your domicile will govern the distribution of your personal property and assets, and creating a new will and estate planning documents would provide another set of records confirming your intent to domicile in Texas.

Should you own real estate in more than one state?

Admittedly, ownership of real estate in multiple states create further complexity in clearly establishing and defining your domicile. If you are retaining your home (and some of your belongings) in another state, it may be much more difficult to show that you have abandoned your prior state of domicile. A person can own real estate in multiple states and maintain only one state of domicile; however, this becomes a much closer question of fact in proving a state of domicile. Also note for some purposes, you may be considered a resident of multiple states—for example, in some states if you spend a specified amount of time each year, you may be required to file a state income tax return. Thus, as much as possible, one should attempt to consolidate and maintain a single place of domicile.

Spend quality time in your new domicile state

For individuals who travel often, it is imperative to spend quality time in any new state of domicile, creating and maintaining social and professional connections to the state that will provide evidence of one’s intent to domicile in the new state. 

Is an affidavit of domicile required in Texas?

Additionally, you may have seen reference to an affidavit of domicile. Although some states may have a form of an affidavit of domicile for new residents to file, Texas does not have a requirement to file an affidavit of domicile. However, anyone can file an affidavit in the public record further confirming your intent of domicile in Texas to further provide record proof of your intent. Even though it is not required, some individuals feel more comfortable including this publicly-filed sworn affidavit in their stack of records further supporting their intent and change of domicile.

Where Should You Domicile?

Establishing Domicile in Texas: Why, How, and Where 4

These questions always lead to the question of trying to determine where should one domicile. If you are reading this article, it is likely that you have considered coming to the great state of Texas and we would be happy to have you. But know, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for every person. Each individual should evaluate what, if any, change makes sense for their situation. There are, of course, financial implications and various differences in tax burdens or expenses in any choice. For example, the cost of vehicle insurance may be higher in one state, but it may have offsetting lower healthcare insurance costs. And note that these can vary by county within each state as well. Or the sales or income tax in one state may end up being lower than the personal property tax levied in another. In this situation, there is some comfort in taking the road more travelled, as a full-time RVer in Texas (or Florida or South Dakota) has likely already come across any question or issue that you may be facing.

Ultimately, the choice of domicile should be one where you intend to call home, an anchor in your travels, and a place where you can maintain those social and professional connections even as you head out on your next great adventure.

The information contained in this post is for educational purposes and is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. You are advised to seek legal advice and counsel from a licensed attorney or certified professional in your state regarding any specific legal questions or matters.


Establishing Domicile in Texas: Why, How, and Where 5

Author:

Samuel L. Burk

Samuel L. Burk is an attorney licensed in Texas and a partner of East Texas Legal, P.L.L.C. 


Did you like this? Pin it to Pinterest!

Establishing Domicile in Texas: Why, How, and Where 6

8 Responses

  1. Been fulltime since January 2024 and I need to figure out this domicile thing. I’m 70 and collecting social security as well as a monthly check from my retirement account. I am also a partially disabled veteran and get a monthly disability check for a few hundred dollars from the VA. Other than the loan on my RV I don’t have any other debt. I pay off any charges in full on credit cards every month. I’m a NJ resident with everything being based at an address I no longer live at. Drivers license, auto and RV insurance, etc.

    1. Hi Brendan, the first step is to decide if you want to stay a resident of NJ. If not, then figuring out which state you would rather domicile in is first on your list. Texas, South Dakota, and Florida are popular states to switch domicile to. However, whichever state you choose will depend on what you need. Samuel Burk, the author of this article, gives Escapees members a free consultation for those RVers who want to look into domicile in Texas. If there’s another state you’d like to domicile in because it could benefit you better, then talking to a domicile attorney in that state would give you steps you need to follow to establish domicile in that state instead. If you want to contact Samuel Burk, he’s part of East Texas Legal, PLLC and can be reached at (936) 337-3034. We also have other blog posts that cover domicile and how to go about establishing it. Click this link and it’ll take you there: https://escapees.com/category/domicile/

    1. Hi Courtney, you can register your RV online through https://www.texas.gov/texas-by-texas/. When you do, you simply need to click “out of state” and complete the rest of your registration. You won’t need to get an inspection until you return to Texas. However, a new law was passed where, beginning in 2025, you won’t have to get an inspection for non-commercial vehicles.

  2. We have a Rainbow drive address already and intend to make Texas our domicile soon. Regarding car registration. Do we have to go to Polk county to register our car or can we do it in Arlington, but use the Livingston address, since we will first be in Arlington for a few months. Same question for getting our Texas driver license

  3. Do I need to register my 5th Wheel Camper in Texas (currently NE), or do I just need to register the truck I’m pulling it with?

    1. Hi John, you should register all your vehicles in your domicile state. If that’s Texas, then they should be registered in Texas. Keep in mind that things like vehicle registration, voter registration, estate planning, doctors, dentists, and more will all help to strengthen your domicile status. Thanks for asking!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search
Categories
Archives

Limited Time Offer

Join Today & Receive RV Foundations FREE!

$127 Value!

Got FOMO?

Sign up for Escapees RV Club News and Never Miss a Thing!

Find Your Community at Escapees Events!

Learn to RV with Escapees!

Whether you’re a part-time or full-time RVer, you can learn to RV with our in-person and online training. 

RVers Boot Camp is your in-person opportunity to learn directly from RVing experts.

RVers Online University allows you to learn at your own pace from the comfort of your own home or RV.

Never miss a post.

Sign up for Escapees RV Club News now!