It’s time to get into topics that we Googled for weeks looking for answers. First up – establishing your domicile. If you’re like us, you might have no idea wtf a domicile is.

Why? Because you’ve likely never had to even think about it. For those that live in…well, any stationary setting…your domicile is your address. You’ve never heard it called your domicile because, in your world, it’s just “change your address when you move”.

Your domicile is where you consider your permanent home (on paper). It determines things like…

📝 Income tax, estate tax, inheritance tax, etc.
📄 Vehicle registration
🛻 Emissions testing
💸 Insurance premiums
👩‍⚖️ Jury duty
🗳 Voting
📚 Homeschooling laws

…and a lot more. 

What’s the Big Deal with ESTABLISHING your Domicile?

You may not realize it, but your domicile determines a LOT about what you’ll be paying and doing in the upcoming year 💰

Now, if you’re keeping your home when you hit the road – no biggie; your house address stays as your domicile 👌

But if you sell your home and have no permanent address when you hit the road, you’ll need to establish a domicile in the best state for you 🌵 …as you can imagine, many people feel that a state with no income tax is the best state for them 😏

Don’t be too hasty to just point to a map and choose your income tax-free domicile, though.

It’s kind of a big deal.

Why? Because there have even been cases where people take the right steps to establish a domicile, but then spend no time in that state, and can still be sued by their former state for taxes because they didn’t show true intent to “live” in their new domicile 😳

(I went down a rabbit hole of reading stories about people who got sued by states. It was a whole thing.)

Needless to say, ✅ new fear unlocked.

Choosing your new domicile

Here are some things you can do to prove your “intent” to live in whatever new state you choose and engage in your civic duties:

🦷 Choose doctors, dentists, accountants, or attorneys in your new state
🚘 Change your license and registration to your new state
🗳  Register to vote in your new state
📦 If you have storage, move it to your new state
📚  Get a library card
🏠 **Visit your new state**

All of these things show the government that you plan on being a citizen in this state 😉

Looking for a place to start your research?

The 3 most popular states for declaring domicile as a full-time RVer are:

The state we set our sights on was South Dakota 🐄

Your Mailing Service vs. Establishing Your Domicile

There IS an important distinction we need to talk about – setting up a mailing service 📫  (ours is Traveling Mailbox) is NOT the same as setting up a domicile.

These mailing services – they accept your mail, scan it, open it, and forward it to you – are typically in a commercially zoned area. This doesn’t fly for domicile. You’ll need a physical residential address for things like opening bank accounts, getting your license, getting your vehicle registration, voting, etc. 🏦

Some services, however – like Escapees – can help you with both your mail forwarding and your domicile.

Mail sorted in dividers


Is your head spinning yet? 🥴

No doubt, it’s a lot. Especially on a topic you might not have known existed before today.

While we intended to make South Dakota our new domicile, you’re required to get your license and registration in your new state within 6 months of sending in your domicile paperwork. We knew we weren’t going to be in South Dakota during that timeframe, so we took the easier route – using my mom’s address in Michigan as our new domicile 🏠

Some day we may still register our domicile in South Dakota, but we had SO much to get done on such a tight timeline and this didn’t seem like the most important thing to switch at the time. Plus, we had just paid for registration on our new truck and trailer and wanted to avoid paying for registration in South Dakota just a couple months later 🤷‍♀️

So yes, you can also use a willing friend or family’s residence as your domicile.

We lived in the same county as my mom back in MI, so everything stayed the same – our voting rules, our insurance premiums, our income tax, etc.

One more thing before you leave – one huge, massive disclaimer: please, please, please talk to an attorney if you have any questions about where you should establish your domicile based on your specific circumstances.

At the end of the day, establishing your domicile in a new place is a legal matter and you should consult an expert. Capisce? 👌

Looking for more tips on transitioning to the RV lifestyle? Check out our other articles!