936-327-8873

The Ten Commandments of Texas Domicile

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

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

Author

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.

Did you like this post? Pin it to Pinterest!

11 Responses to “The Ten Commandments of Texas Domicile

  • Great points to consider..

  • Great article! Thanks for taking the time!

  • Brenda Logan
    5 months ago

    how much does it cost to file the affidavit to domicile

    • Georgianne Austin
      5 months ago

      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.

  • Steve Johnson
    5 months ago

    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.

  • 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?

    • Georgianne Austin
      5 months ago

      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/

  • Vivian P.
    5 months ago

    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.

    • Georgianne Austin
      5 months ago

      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.

  • 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.

    • Georgianne Austin
      3 weeks ago

      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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) Notification - Escapees RV Club is monitoring the situation closely. For up to date information affecting members, please click here.

More Info
X