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myshipp

Confused about Florida domicile stuff

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Hi! My husband and I sold our home in Alaska a few months ago and have been traveling in our R-pod ever since. We have no plans to return to Alaska, and want to establish residency in a state that has better insurance options and such. We got a Florida address with Escapees, and we are spending the next week in Sumter County, trying to get through their Florida domicile checklist. They make it sound pretty easy, just list the Bushnell address they assigned you as your living address when necessary.

Maybe I’m taking this a little too seriously or literally, but when I look up Florida’s official rules for obtaining a driver’s license, declaring domicile, etc., they specifically say you must maintain a residence in Florida and reside there. We have no plans to reside anywhere. We haven’t even been to our supposed residential address in Bushnell, Florida (do we need to?), and though we’ll probably come to Florida somewhat regularly because we like it, we’re not sure when or how often. So, how do we declare a domicile in Florida—or anywhere—without committing perjury?

And when it comes to proving residency, how can I do that? The Escapees Mail Service instructions say the Sumter County DMV will accept the Escapees:Home welcome letter, but the welcome letter they sent only had the Texas mailing address on it (they sent the Florida address separately.) Other guides on establishing residency suggest proving residency to the DMV by using mail that has been sent to your Florida address, but Escapees specifically says not to have stuff sent there, to have your mail sent to Texas. We’re only supposed to use the Florida address for things like insurance, drivers’ licenses, and car registration—but we can’t get those things without proving residency first!

Can any Florida residents who don’t really live in Florida help me? Thanks!

 

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Not sure about Fl, but I use SD through SKPs. The SD address is only for registration purposes. Anything that is sent there is just forwarded to the Livingston address. As this is the main corporate office for SKPs. All of my bills, financials, insurance have the Rainbow Dr address. So I would suspect Fl. is set up the same way.

Edited by rynosback

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Hi and welcome to the outside.  I know many many people live in Florida part time and maintain homes of some type while staying elsewhere especially during the summer.  I don’t know the rules but I would be surprised if there is a length of stay requirement. Even requiring an actual house or structure seems unlikely for part time residents.  I guess I’m not much help on the real requirements. I am encouraging you to keep looking for answers that fit for your situation. 

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Let me suggest that you start by reading a little bit about just what domicile really is and how you get one. This article was written by 2 attorneys who work with Escapee members. The Ultimate Guide to Establishing Your Domicile as an RVer  Next, read the article Florida, A Place to Call Home. These two articles should help to answer your questions but do not hesitate to come back with specific issues since we have members who are using the Escapee Florida address for domicile.

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2 hours ago, Kirk W said:

Let me suggest that you start by reading a little bit about just what domicile really is and how you get one. This article was written by 2 attorneys who work with Escapee members. The Ultimate Guide to Establishing Your Domicile as an RVer  Next, read the article Florida, A Place to Call Home. These two articles should help to answer your questions but do not hesitate to come back with specific issues since we have members who are using the Escapee Florida address for domicile.

It is very true that I have no idea how all this residency and domicile stuff works. I guess that’s what I get for living in the same place all my life!

Here is something specific that confuses me:

According to the official Florida government websites, you cannot register your vehicles, register to vote, or have insurance in Florida without a Florida drivers license or ID. So the first thing I would have to do is get a drivers license. Okay, that’s fine, except to get a drivers license, I need (sorry if this font is wonky, I copy and pasted from their website):

————

3. Proof of Residential Address

Customers may not use their current driver license or ID card as proof of residential address. Customers must submit TWO different documents with their residential address (printouts or faxes of these documents are acceptable). Residential address documents include, but are not limited to: 

Deed, mortgage, monthly mortgage statement, mortgage payment booklet or residential rental/lease agreement;

Florida voter registration card;

Florida vehicle registration or title (print a duplicate registration at www.GoRenew.com);

Utility bill;

A utility hook up or work order dated within 60 days prior to the application;

Automobile payment booklet;

Selective service card;

Medical or health card with address listed;

Current homeowner insurance policy or bill;

Current automobile insurance policy or bill;

Educational institution transcript forms for the current school year;

Unexpired professional license issued by a government agency in the U.S.;

W-2 form or 1099 form;

Form DS2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) status;

A letter from a homeless shelter, transitional service provider or a half-way house verifying they receive mail for the customer. The letter must be accompanied by a Certification of Address form;

Mail from financial institutions including checking, savings or investment account statements;

Mail from federal, state, county or city government agencies; or

FDLE registration form completed by local sheriff’s department.

Customers who do not have any of the above documents in their name may provide two proofs of residential address from a parent, step-parent, legal guardian or other person with whom they reside and a Certification of Address form.

————

Obviously, many of those won’t apply to us as nomads—we don’t own a home or have jobs in Florida. The voter registration, vehicle registration, and health care don’t make sense, since those all require a Florida drivers license or ID to get! I suppose Escapees:Home could write a letter to go with a “Certification of Address”? Should I just have a couple of bank statements sent to the Florida address, even though they’ll immediately get forwarded to Texas?

I probably could file a Declaration of Domicile, as mentioned in the “Florida, a Place to Call Home” article for one of the documents, even though the above DMV list doesn’t mention it.

2 hours ago, rynosback said:

Not sure about Fl, but I use SD through SKPs. The SD address is only for registration purposes. Anything that is sent there is just forwarded to the Livingston address. As this is the main corporate office for SKPs. All of my bills, financials, insurance have the Rainbow Dr address. So I would suspect Fl. is set up the same way.

Exactly, that’s the problem! If I were getting all my official mail sent to the Florida address, I could use it as proof of residency. But Escapees says not to do that, to have everything sent to Texas. 
 

ETA: Thanks for the replies so far! I’m just still having a hard time wrapping my head around having to prove I live somewhere when I don’t actually live anywhere. 

Edited by myshipp

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You may be over thinking this. Just follow thru on the instructions and I suspect you will be fine. You need to do this in the specified county tho since enforcement varies by county here. Many have gone before you and we have not seen people here complaining about problems.

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Many full-timers have gone before you doing all of this.  Why not give Escapees a call on the items you're not sure of.  Escapees researched this thoroughly before setting it up so it's definitely legal to do.

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Not sure about FL but many members of Escapees use a FL address. I use the Escapees South Dakota address. SD requires a one night stay at any motel/hotel/campground anywhere in the State. I just used my receipt from my campground to get my drivers license. Then I was able to register my vehicles and register to vote. I have any mail regarding my vehicles, i.e.: insurance, tag renewals etc, and health insurance addressed to SD. This mail is forwarded to TX. All other mail goes directly to TX. DMV fees and insurance is cheeper in SD. You can renew your tags by mail. No inspection required. Your drivers license is good for 5 years so you don't have to return for a one night stay every year. You don't need a special case license t drive a motorhome. You may want t consider SD instead of FL. 

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Stop overthinking it.  There are a whole lot of opinions here, some good, some bad.  Those who do not have Fla as their domicile are not helping you.

I would be VERY surprised if the folks in Bushnell can't easily walk you thru this process.  You are FAR from the first couple to do this.  Stop overthinking it.  

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5 years ago I had no problem registering to vote in Florida, from NJ. I used my daughter's Ft Lauderdale address. No Fl license. It was more difficult to cancel the registration last year.

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9 hours ago, Twotoes said:

You may want t consider SD instead of FL. 

Except they chose Florida because of health insurance. SD does not offer what they need.

6 hours ago, Sehc said:

I used my daughter's Ft Lauderdale address.

Are you suggesting the poster use your daughter's address? :) 

You two remind me of a song on the album Free to Be that goes something like, "Some kind of help is the kind of help that doesn't help at all."

Linda Sand

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A few years ago, a lady wrote up an account of establishing Florida domicile by flying in and doing it all in one day.  For the life of me, I can't find it. 

I think you in particular may have trouble because you haven't been having mail sent to your Florida address.  The reason Escapees doesn't suggest that you have your regular mail sent to the Florida address is that it automatically gets sent to your Texas address, and you pay a separate fee for each piece that gets sent.  Not to mention that there's a delay involved.

Personally, I've always been a little uneasy about the way Escapees does this, but so far it appears to work.  But there are other mail services in Florida that don't involve having the Florida address serve solely as a place to receive only the portion of your mail that relates to your Florida domicile.  The address you use for your Florida stuff is the same address you use for everything.

But there's nothing stopping you from changing your address for bank statements or credit card bills to the Florida address before you have any connection to Florida.  The language you quoted says that printouts of documents are acceptable; I have a street address on the .pdf copies of my bank statements, even though I don't actually get those in the mail.  I wonder if you could change your address with your bank, for example, and ask them to generate a statement or other document with that address on it, and look at it online, and print it for use for getting your driver's license.  It doesn't sound like the authorities make you bring the actual envelope or anything.

And then once you use those documents to get your Florida driver's license, you can change the address back to the Livingston address, to avoid having to pay extra if something does happen to actually get sent.  Again, this is an oddity with the bifurcated system Escapees is using that seems to work, but it just seems questionable to me.

What you'll find is that for fulltimers, there's a lot of wedging yourself into various categories.  Pre-Medicare health insurance is a prime example.  The ACA says it's based on where you actually reside, but for traveling fulltimers, it's literally impossible to change health insurance for each place you stay, and I don't use the word "literally" lightly.  There are time deadlines and documentation requirements that a traveling fulltimer simply can't fulfill, but nobody thinks that should disqualify them from having health insurance.  So they figure out what can work, which is that they get it where their domicile is.

 

 

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7 hours ago, Blues said:

A few years ago, a lady wrote up an account of establishing Florida domicile by flying in and doing it all in one day.  For the life of me, I can't find it.

That was probably Winnie Views: How To Move to Florida in 1 Hour in which Lynn describes how she flew to FL in 2015 to set up this state as her residence in order to get a good ACA health insurance plan. Then it seems she flew back to Illinois never to return. About a year later in 2016 the Department of Health & Human Services issued a Residence FAQ (PDF) for the ACA to prevent what Lynn and others were doing -- changing or appearing to change residency in order to get better or cheaper ACA health insurance. It's hard to get mad at Lynn because she died a few years later in 2018.

Nevertheless, a number of full time RVers think it's ok to complete a residency "checklist" (get a new address, register vehicles in state, etc) without actually residing in the state. Even Escapee's in its recent (August 2019) The Ultimate Guide to Establishing Your Domicile as an RVer says "it isn’t enough to choose a new state, go there for a week, fill out the paper work and then take off with no intention of returning to your new state of domicile". For those of you who still think "checklists" are enough, read the Sanchez Case.

 

7 hours ago, Blues said:

The ACA says it's based on where you actually reside, but for traveling fulltimers, it's literally impossible to change health insurance for each place you stay

 

It's also not a good idea to purchase health insurance in a place you never reside.

 

OP, some final thoughts for you . . .

First, I admire your candor. You're new and asked fundamental questions that got to the heart of establishing a domicile as a full time RVer. However, it's never a good idea to say in a public forum as you did "We have no plans to reside anywhere" but go on to say that you "want to establish residency in a state that has better insurance options".

Finally, I think the best answer to your concerns came from Kirk W -- make sure to check out those links he listed.

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Well yeah, a fake domicile change in order to avoid taxes is asking for trouble. Especially from one of the high tax states who are determined to squeeze every possible penny out of people. Actually living full time in one state while trying to claim residence in another state should not work. The same with people who live in a high tax state and try to register their vehicle and/or RV in Montana.

I don't have any experience with insurance changes since I have excellent insurance from my previous employer and Medicare.

But lots of full timers just don't live in any one state for 180 days.

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16 hours ago, sandsys said:

 

Are you suggesting the poster use your daughter's address? :) 

You two remind me of a song on the album Free to Be that goes something like, "Some kind of help is the kind of help that doesn't help at all."

Linda Sand

No Linda. 🙄  OP said they could not register to vote with out a license. I was able to register to vote without a license. 

 

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Thank you for all the helpful replies, and questions that made me think and research a bit more. 

It will be easy enough to have mail sent to the Florida address, and just eat the nominal fee they charge for automatically forwarding it to Texas. My complaint is mainly that on their website, Escapees says that when you sign up for their service, they will provide documents (a Welcome Letter and a Letter of Acknowledgment) that you can use to get your driver’s license, etc., and they didn’t. I’ve emailed them about it twice, but their replies haven’t answered any of my direct questions, so I suspect they are form letters. Since this is the Escapees forum, I mistakenly thought it would be a good place to ask about that. 

Though this wasn’t the purpose of this thread, for my own sake I want to clarify that I am not trying to be deceptive or fake anything.

Here are a few details about us, and why I think we need to change our domicile to a different state:

By default, we are Alaska residents. I’d lived there all my life until October, and my husband since 2000. We have Alaska driver’s licenses, and that’s where our vehicles are registered and insured. We paid them property taxes up through October 2019, which is when when we sold our house. In many ways, it doesn’t matter if we’re Alaskans for now. There is no state income tax, and we can renew our licenses and registration online. We don’t have to get our vehicle inspected on a regular basis. 

But their are a few realities that make it impractical to be tied to such a remote state in the future. Sometime before October of this year, we’ll need Real IDs, which we have to get in person. We have no plans or desire to return to Alaska, especially just to visit the DMV. Health insurance for Alaskans is pretty much useless outside of the region. I checked into some of the “alternative” health plans for nomads, and was told they can’t currently accommodate Alaskans. Our truck is getting old, and we’ll eventually need to replace it. We aren’t going to return to Alaska to register a new vehicle. 

If I had my way, I wouldn’t have to choose a state at all. The whole point of selling our house and leaving our state was so we could travel around at our leisure, without having to be at a certain place at a certain time.

But as you all know, that isn’t how our country works. There’s no such thing as general US driver’s licenses, voter’s registration, or insurance. We must be tied to a state. So we have to pick one. We picked Florida because we like it, so we are most likely to return to it regularly (although I can’t honestly say when or how often). If we ever got tired of traveling, we’d probably settle down in Florida. And yes, we’d definitely enjoy the Disney Discounts:) It does seem to have better-than-usual options for health insurance, but that is not really a deciding factor—any state would be better than Alaska in that regard!

Again, I have no interest in being deceptive about my living arrangements or faking anything. I’m simply trying to figure out how to live out my dream of traveling around the country indefinitely, while still being able to vote, drive a legally registered/insured vehicle, and not die of a curable disease because I can’t afford health care out-of-pocket. 

Thanks for the help and suggestions. 

Edited by myshipp

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I am in no way implying that you are being deceitful. What I do wonder is why you do not call the Escpaee office so that you can speak directly to someone there? That would be the most effective way to get your questions answered and you could see why you have not received the mentioned welcome letter. 

Phone  936-327-8873   or    888-580-8444

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4 hours ago, Sehc said:

No Linda. 🙄  OP said they could not register to vote with out a license. I was able to register to vote without a license. 

Because you had a residential address--your daughter's. In Minnesota someone can personally verify your address which then lets you register to vote. The OP has no one to verify for him thus would need other proof of address--like a driver's license..

Linda

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Instead of calling the general phone # for Escapees; first, read this.  https://www.escapees.com/establishing-domicile-for-rvers/  At the end of this article the phone # for this author is given  800-260-1615.  Susie Adams and Shawn Loring, lawyer have been involved with the Escapees for many, many years.  They were probably the ones that had a major influence on the Florida domicile and can surely help you with your concerns.

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Thank you, @Kirk W. I am on the wait list to be called back (high call volume) and I’m sure I can get it straightened out. I didn’t think you were calling me deceitful, but there was some mention of “faking” domicile on here, so I wanted to be clear that isn’t my intention. I also don’t mean to imply that Escapees is doing anything shady. If so, they’re the worst at hiding it in the world, since they say right on their website what they do! Sumter County clearly knows about their service and are okay with it. 

I wrote my original post on Sunday, when the Escapee offices were closed so I couldn’t call them. I had received my welcome email on Friday, and was a bit put out that it didn’t mention the Florida address at all, just the Texas one. And I’m still not sure what the “letter of intent” is—that was something I asked in my email, but they didn’t answer in their reply. Anyway, I noticed Escapees had a forum, so I thought that I could find others who used their service and had the same experience.

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38 minutes ago, myshipp said:

Anyway, I noticed Escapees had a forum, so I thought that I could find others who used their service and had the same experience.

You did noting wrong and in fact most of us would do the same. Please do not be offended by the remarks made by some of our members. Sometimes we are not good with words and so put things poorly, sometimes we may just be in a crabby mood, and some respond to a post without bothering to read all of the previous replies and so repeat the same things which were previously said. Most of the time the person responding does mean well, even when it doesn't sound that way. By all means do not hesitate to bring your problems here as there are usually people about who can help. Also, none of the Escapee management reads these forums on a regular basis and even those who administer the forums do not read every post or visit every day. They generally try to be as hands off as possible and anyone is allowed to join the forums, even when they are not and never have been members of the club and even a few or the regulars were once members but have allowed their membership to drop, but still display the membership number that was assigned to them, even if it has been years since they belonged. 

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Let me apologize if you thought that I was criticizing you, I was not. I was replying to the post about folks trying to get out of paying the taxes imposed by the politicians that they probably voted for their whole lives. They voted them in, and it's only right that they suffer the consequences.

Fulltimers by definition probably are not going to reside in any one state for 180+ days a year.

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Quote

Let me apologize if you thought that I was criticizing you, I was not. I was replying to the post about folks trying to get out of paying the taxes imposed by the politicians that they probably voted for their whole lives. They voted them in, and it's only right that they suffer the consequences.

Actually, the word "tax" hadn't even been mentioned when you posted about people filing fake domicile changes to avoid taxes.  Plus, you were talking about people who live in one state trying to claim "residence" in anther state, which has nothing to do with people, like the OP, who don't live anywhere in particular but have to choose a place to domicile.

myshipp, your situation is a textbook example of someone who decides to travel fulltime:  I'm leaving here, not going back, and will either travel until I die or stop traveling when I find some place I want to settle down. 

As you noted, you're facing challenges because "the system" isn't set up to accommodate people who are doing that, including taking steps to declare a domicile.  The vast majority of people just have a domicile, with no thought whatsoever.

 

 

Edited by Blues

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7 hours ago, Kirk W said:

anyone is allowed to join the forums, even when they are not and never have been members of the club and even a few or the regulars were once members but have allowed their membership to drop, but still display the membership number that was assigned to them, even if it has been years since they belonged. 

Guilty as charged to part two. I was told my membership number is mine for life so that if I every pay up again I will still have the same member number. Thus it didn't seem necessary to me to delete it from my profile. It still gives people a clue as to when we joined and I think I say pretty regularly that we are no longer living on the road but I don't think that negates our experiences. Our fulltiming began eleven years ago and we have been off the road nearly as long as we were on it now. I do try to not give advice on things I know have changed but things like downsizing stay the same no matter what year you start doing it.

Linda Sand

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9 hours ago, sandsys said:

I was told my membership number is mine for life so that if I every pay up again I will still have the same member number.

That is true. As far as I know, there is no rule prohibiting the use but it does mean that the use of an SKP number does not mean that the person posting is a member, only that they were at one time. While there is a rule prohibiting misuse of the SKP numbers but I really don't know exactly what it prohibits. Probably the making up of one if you never had one?

Quote

Rule #15: Miss use of SKP #s and Lifetime Member badges will result in a warning. If false SKP information is then not removed accordingly account will be banned.

 

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