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The Ten Commandments of Texas Domicile

The Ten Commandments of Texas Domicile 1

It usually starts when a couple comes to see me at the legal offices of Loring and Associates. They are happy because they have driven to Livingston, Texas, in their new RV and are ready to “create their domicile” in Texas before taking off again. They’ve been told the whole process can be completed in less than a week—in fact, in only a day, sometimes.

I begin by saying, “Tell me your story.” The typical couple has decided they want to be full-time RVers, and they are planning to sell their house—for instance, back in Massachusetts. They chose Texas as their new home because they’ve read blogs by full-time RVers who have said it’s so easy to call Texas home. They have their map of Livingston. They know the location of Escapees Headquarters and our office, how to find the driver license office and how to register their vehicles. They’ve signed up for the Escapees mail service. “So,” they ask, “Are we good? Are we Texans?” Luckily, they have chosen to make an appointment with me. In my office, I have the list of what I call “The Ten Commandments” of domicile on the wall behind their chairs. I ask them to turn around so we can examine the rules to see if they truly are Texans.

Ten Commandments of Texas Domicile

Number One: Mail Service

Yes, their address is now Rainbow Drive, Livingston, Texas.

Number Two: Vehicle Registration

Yes, now that they have their Texas mailing address, they can register their vehicles once they have been inspected and insured in Texas.

Number Three: Driver License

Yes, Livingston, Texas, has been dealing with Escapees members for years, so obtaining a driver license (as long as you also have one of the official identification papers with you) is relatively easy.

Number Four: Register to Vote

With the documents from step three, you can also register to vote. 

Number Five: Affidavit of Domicile

Affidavit of Domicile is a form in our office for people to sign before a notary claiming Texas to be your home. We file the form with the court.

Unfortunately, there are five more requirements that aren’t so easy. It’s these other five “commandments” that you must also consider in order to actually be domiciled in Texas.

Number Six: Your Connection to the Livingston, Texas Community

I begin by asking a few basic questions: How much time have you spent in Livingston? What have you done locally to establish ties to the city? How much time do you plan to spend in Texas? Sometimes, the response is an immediate shrug of the shoulders. If they explain to me that they don’t plan to spend any time in Texas, I tell them about case law, which says to establish domicile in a new state, you must spend time in that state, and you must show that you “intend to make that state your home.” The courts will look at what community connections you have with your new state. It can be as simple as joining a local tennis club. I ask if they have a local doctor, dentist and veterinarian.

Number Seven: Business Papers

I ask if they have business connections in Texas. Do you have a local accountant? Do you use a local bank? Have you switched your health insurance to a local provider?

Number Eight: Estate Planning

Have you had your wills, trusts, and powers of attorney drawn up in Texas? If you intend to make Texas home, as the domicile law requires, this is one way to show that intention.

Number Nine: Real Estate

Where do you own real estate? Do you still own a house somewhere else? Is it rented out or staying vacant until you return home? That will be hard to explain if the taxing authorities of the state you left question your new domicile.

Number Ten: Personalty

This is the name for all that stuff that wouldn’t fit into your RV. Where are your personal items stored? If it is stored “back home” in a state you claim is no longer your home, it will make it difficult to prove that it really isn’t your home for domicile purposes. Many people then ask me why it is so hard for them to claim a new home. I remind them that they have chosen a lifestyle that doesn’t fit into “the norm” and with that choice come some consequences not experienced by those living in the typical “sticks and bricks.”

Establishing Domicile in Texas

The Ten Commandments of Texas Domicile 2

Not all the Ten Commandments must be met to establish domicile. However, it’s a weighing process in which the courts engage. They weigh the factors you show to support your claim of calling the new state your home as opposed to the factors that show another state as your likely domicile. If you end up in court having to prove to a judge that you are domiciled in Texas, you must prove it by a “preponderance of the evidence.” That means there must be more evidence proving your domicile than there is evidence showing it isn’t your domicile. In conclusion, as you are contemplating where you want to call home, I suggest you create a spreadsheet where you compare all the states that you might consider home. Compare all the factors that are important to you and then choose the one that fits.

And, while on the road, stop by and visit us at Loring and Associates, or call us with your questions. As a new, added feature, Escapees now offers domicile lectures as a part of the RVOU program. These lectures are helpful in guiding you through the tricky, legal maze of domicile.

K. Susie Adams


K. Susie Adams SKP #134068

K. Susie Adams has been a lawyer for over 30 years, spending 15 of those years working as a trial lawyer. She also taught legal writing at the University of Houston Law School. From 2011–2016, she was executive director of Childrenz Haven, the Child Advocacy Center of Polk County, Texas. Susie and her husband, James Frost, reside in Livingston, Texas.

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The Ten Commandments of Texas Domicile 3

29 Responses

    1. It is typically no more than a few dollars, but can vary from state to state. A quick Google search for “affidavit to domicile fee” plus the state you’re interested in should provide you the answer.

  1. Question: Why would Texas challenge your domicile claim and lose out on what taxes and fees you are putting into the state? I can see that your former state of residence would have incentive to still claim you as a resident for tax purposes. For example, if you stay in California more than 183 nights in a year, California may claim you as a resident and levy taxes on you. Thank you for a very comprehensive article.

  2. We are original Texans (in our younger days before jobs caused us to relocate for different jobs E, N, & W but we’re coming back home to family scattered thru out the state.) However we’re not selling our CA home because our granddaughter plans to move to this area & needs a home. Will this be a problem. Also we had TX DL, insurance, etc in younger days + now living family in area & family burial plots so we think we have some supporting proof for declaring domicile. Any additional thoughts or gotchas we should be aware of?

    1. Hi there!
      With specific questions like yours, we recommend you reach out to legal counsel directly so all factors can be considered in the discussion. Loring & Associates (who Mrs. Adams works with) typically offer a free consultation, which sounds like it would be helpful in your case. http://www.loringlaw.com/

  3. My husband and I have been Texas residents since 1993 so when we become full time rv’ers in September 2020 establishing our residence and mailing address with Escapees should be easy. However, I can’t find any information on whether we can be considered homesteaders in Polk County in order to get a homesteader exemption on our income taxes.

    1. Hi Vivian!
      No, your Escapees address does not qualify for a homestead exemption. You are basically renting the address from Escapees, and therefore do not own any property at that address that would qualify as a homestead.

  4. Do you absolutely have to be physically present in TX in order to establish Domicile? Is there any way to do it remotely? I would need to register an airstream and a truck.

    1. You can change your Vehicle Registration via the mail as long as you are outside of the state of TX. Once that is done, though, you have 90 days to visit anywhere in the state of TX to get your Inspection/Drivers License. If you are in the state of Texas at the time of registering your vehicle, you have to come directly to Polk County. DL and Inspection can be done anywhere in TX.

  5. Do you have any knowledge of how long it is currently taking to get all of the official paperwork and related activities accomplished in Polk County to establish domicile? I had heard that the Polk County office for DLs is about 2 months behind, for example. Is there a way/place to get things done expeditiously (understanding that COVID has changed everything). Thanks?

  6. Thank you for the clear and concise explanation. Very helpful.

    I have 2 questions:

    – Under Connection to Community, you ask about connections to Livingston, but then switch to the more general reference of Texas. I’ve lived in DFW for the past year and have changed the address on my DL, car registration, RV registration and registered to vote in Polk County. I have connections in DFW that I will maintain, but not in Livingston. Do I need to come to Livingston for any length of time?

    – How likely is it,, or under what circumstances, that you’ll have to defend your domicile?

    Thanks again.

  7. We are Full time RVer’s with 2 houses and 5 acre vacant lot in Maryland, we are considering docile in Texas. We rent both houses and set our 5th wheel on one of the rental property that has a detached garage for us to stay in while we are home visiting family. We stay about 3 months in the summer and then move on. Since we rented out our residence we are actually don’t have an official address. We are planning to purchase a home in Texas somewhere in the next few years, after we sell all our properties in Maryland. We want to start the domicile process sooner.

    How difficult of a process am I looking at? I am open to all options.

  8. I am a native Texan and current resident in the Houston area. My wife and I are going full time and have sold the house. We are currently using our son’s apartment for our permanent address but are considering Escapees for mail handling. I assume this would require us to change our permanent address on DL, LTC, insurance, etc.. I assume the first 5 steps still apply but the rest are moot.

    1. I too am curious about this. We’ve always been renters but thinking about living in the RV full time. Everything is already based in Texas so while I know we’d need a ‘permanent’ address immediately, I think the vehicle registrations and voter registrations could be pushed out until it’s time.

  9. My wife and I have lived in Texas for most of our lives and for the last 30+ years. We are selling our home and becoming full-timers and plan to use the Escapees mail forwarding service. We still own a parcel of unimproved land in a Texas “resort city” and I am listed as the life estate beneficiary of my (currently unoccupied) parents’ homestead (also in Texas). Will we still need to take other steps to show our domicile as being in Livingston, other than changing the address on our DL and vehicle registrations?

  10. Do you happen to know; My wife and I are planning to establish domicile in Texas this October. I have a Nevada Non-Commercial Class A that allows me to drive my Truck and 5th wheel. The requirements are the same for Texas and Nevada so I already know I will need the class A Commercial Class A Exempt in Texas. It is vague on the DPS website if they will accept my Nevada license in exchange for a Texas license, waiving testing requirements. DPS does not take phone calls and does not reply to my question via email. Thank you.

    1. From what they state here: https://www.dps.texas.gov/section/driver-license/moving-texas, your license should transfer.
      Have you tried directly contacting the DPS office at which you would apply for your TX license? They can be easier to reach than the state office sometimes.
      If you do find that you need to retake the test, one of our members (and event directors) wrote a great article on taking the Texas drivers license test as an RVer https://escapees.com/texas-drivers-license-requirements-for-rvers/

  11. We are “former” Texas residents and have established our Domicile address in Livingston. We have no plans to return to Texas, but from what I’ve read, so far, it looks like I may have to return for a short visit just to get our vehicles inspected and re-registered. This is a problem for us since we have a transport service move our 5th wheel back and forth between Colorado and Arizona. Is there a workaround for this? Or, are we forced to make an annual trip back to the Lone Star State?

    1. It’s a good idea to establish some sort of connections in Texas beyond just a mailing address, in case Colorado or Arizona choose to question your residency status. There are cases where states have sought back taxes from “visitors” who actually qualify as residents. Making occasional trips to Texas for visits, to maintain connections, etc., help strengthen your claim that you reside in Texas legally.

      That said, no, you don’t have to return to Texas annually for your inspection. You can renew your registration by mail, and when it comes to inspections, you are expected to update it as soon as you cross into the state next time you’re traveling through. Some say the grace period is three days, but I’ve also heard some officers will issue citations sooner (though the county will often dismiss those as long as you get it inspected ASAP and can provide proof of completion).

  12. I have been a resident in East Texas for 16 years. My house is selling and am on the fence to go full time RV’ing or live for extended periods in Panama and returning to Texas for short durations. Would Escapees be good for both possibilities?

    1. Our mail-forwarding service could help you in either situation. If you choose to remain in the U.S. and travel full-time, our service can serve as your mailing address and forward your mail when requested, as well as serve as your domicile address.
      If you choose to live abroad, we can still receive and forward your mail, but you’ll have to look at residency laws in Panama to see if your visits there would affect your ability to claim U.S. residency. (It is likely still possible, but we are not qualified to offer personalized legal advice on domicile. Instead, we encourage you to reach out to domicle-experienced legal advisors, such as East Texas Legal.)

  13. I was born and raised in TX until I was 30 years old. My husband and I left on military orders, but returned, then moved to Florida (on orders) and returned again. We’ve lived in Arizona for the last 8 years, but will sell our house this spring and come to TX in our motorhome to get the process started.

    I’d like to set up the doctors, vets, banking, etc., in my home town of Wichita Falls–does it have to be Livingston? And if we own no other property except our coach, are we satisfying the Time Spent rule?

    We plan to spend some time in Texas every year for all the annual appointments, and often winter there.

    1. Hi there,
      First, thanks for your service!
      At Escapees, we aren’t licensed to give personalized advice regarding domicile. This is why we work closely with companies like East Texas Legal (https://eastexlegal.com/) who are licensed and qualified to take the details of your situation and give you reliable advice on how to proceed. If you’re a member of Escapees, East Texas Legal offers free initial consultation sessions on estate planning, domicile, and other full-time RVer issues. They should be able to answer your direct questions as well as help you figure out what’s best for your situation.

  14. Oh! The one question I needed to ask and didn’t. I read that “you have to spend one year living in TX before it’s legally your Domicile State.”

    Is there a time requirement–as in a specific number of days–to start?

    Thank you.

  15. Hands down the best article I have ever read on this subjct. Thank you for clarifying the issues so succinctly.

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