In the USA, every state is a sovereign in our federal system. Each state has its own laws regarding things like taxation, marriage, inheritance and so on. A domicile is the status of permanent residence in a particular jurisdiction. This doesn’t mean you have to be physically present in that jurisdiction at all times, but you must have sufficient links to that jurisdiction to prove intent to remain or return there.
There are a number of ways to establish a residence, the most common being to live in a particular jurisdiction. Since we are living a nomadic way of life for the foreseeable future, we don’t want to buy or rent a home at this time. We’re establishing our state of domicile in South Dakota by 1) having a mailing address here 2) obtaining driver’s licenses 3) registering to vote 4) registering our vehicles 5) having an attorney draw up our will 6) obtaining vehicle insurance and declaring South Dakota as our state of residence on our health insurance.
It’s important to take these steps and not leave connections in other states. The main reason for this is taxation. I wouldn’t want my last state of residence, Michigan, to collect income tax from me.
That leads to the question, why South Dakota? It works for us for the following reasons:
No State Income Tax. There are other states without state income tax such as Florida, Texas and Washington. This quickly narrowed the field of which states we wanted to domicile in.
Mail Service. South Dakota has a few businesses that are set up specifically to cater to our nomadic needs. These businesses not only collect and forward mail; they also assist with licensing, vehicle and voter registration.
Driver’s License Requirements. A South Dakota’s drivers license is fairly easy to obtain and doesn’t have restrictions or special requirements for large RVs.
Jury Duty. South Dakota may send us a notice for jury duty but they will excuse a full-time traveler.
Vehicle Insurance. South Dakota is one of least expensive places to insure a vehicle. When the 50 states are ranked by insurance cost – most expensive to least expensive – South Dakota is number 47.
* I have to add a correction here. The above statistic does not reference vehicle insurance, it’s overall insurance costs. In the vehicle category South Dakota is ranked 16th.
Residence. South Dakota requires proof of being physically present in the state for only 24 hours before you can obtain your driver’s license. Pretty easy, right?
So, yesterday we rode the scooter over to Madison. Madison is a town northwest of Sioux Falls and is home to about 6,500 permanent residents. It’s also home to a business called “My Dakota Address.” We went there first and met with the proprietor, Terri Lund. Terri gave us a pile of mail that she had already received for us and prepared our driver license and registration documents.
We weren’t able to obtain our driver’s licenses since it was Friday and they only do driver’s licensing on Thursday in Madison. We’ll complete that task on Tuesday in Mitchell. We’ll need to bring a receipt from the RV park with both our names on it. This will provide proof of our physical presence in the state.
Yesterday was unseasonably cool. The scooter ride seemed like it would never end. From the campground, we bombed north on 81 at 60 mph for about 21 miles. The roads around here are mostly straight and fairly flat. Speed limits on secondary roads are mostly 65mph. It’s all farm land. When 81 ended, we headed east at 60mph for another 13 miles before we entered town.
Donna was chilled from the ride while we met with Terri and then walked over to the courthouse on the next block. I was hoping the walk would warm her up. We paid for our vehicle registrations and were given plates for the trailer and scooter. Our RV plate will take a couple of weeks since we opted for a personalized plate. Neither Donna nor I have ever had a personalized plate before, but we went for it. We’re doing a lot things we never did before.
We strolled around, looking at our new “hometown.” We stopped at an insurance agency that Terri recommended and gave them information so they could prepare a quote. Later I applied online for a quote from an agency in Sioux Falls that specializes in RV insurance. I want to have that wrapped up before we leave. Most insurance companies have a grace period of 30 days. Since we won’t be legal residents of Michigan, our vehicle insurance policies won’t be valid for long.
The people we talked to in town were very pleasant. It’s a nice place to call home. We had lunch at a pizza place called Skippy’s. I can’t give it more than a 2.5 on a scale of 5. The service was good but the pizza was bland. After lunch we walked a around. We boarded the scooter and looked for RV friendly parking – we’ll stop back in town with our rig to pick up mail again when we leave the campground.
We stopped at the Sunshine Grocery before leaving town. Donna wanted to pick up a few things for a special “balancing” diet she’ll be on for the weekend. I’ll have leftover pizza and balance it with beer!
One of the items in our pile of mail was a check from USAA for the sale of my BMW motorcycle. We bank with Chase and Genisys Credit Union and neither have a branch in the area. I want to deposit this check into the Genisys account and park the money there in case of emergency. I’m thinking about “what if” scenarios. Like, what if I lost my Chase credit card and debit card? How would I pay for things until they were replaced? I keep my Genisys debit card separate from my other cards. That way I always have an an account I can access if I need to.
After we returned to campground, I rode back a few miles to the town of Salem. I stopped in at a credit union to see if I could deposit the check through their ATM. They didn’t have one, but they directed me to the Dakota First Bank a few blocks away. When I inquired about making the deposit there, they said an ATM would be the way to do it, but not their ATM. It doesn’t accept deposits. I’ll try on Monday at a bank in Mitchell.
We’ll hang around the campground this weekend. Monday we have an appointment with an attorney in Mitchell to set up our estate plan. Tuesday we’ll return to wrap that up and get our driver’s licenses. Wednesday we’ll be back on the road.