What does domicile mean?
The term ‘domicile’ broadly means the country where a person has, or intends to make, their permanent home and connects that person to the law of that specific country. It can be difficult to understand the issue and it takes into account the country of birth, what the person intended, and their connection with other countries.
The reason why domicile is important is that it will have an effect on matters such as inheritance and Probate procedures, tax due, and the jurisdiction of the Court on issues such as divorce proceedings.
If an individual lives in more than one place, their domicile is the place where they have their principal home. A person cannot have more than one domicile at any one time but they may have more than one residence.
In general, domicile will be in a country as a whole (i.e. Scotland) but there are foreign systems that have different laws in different states, provinces or cantons such as Texas, Ontario and Zurich.
A person cannot be domiciled in the UK i.e. a person has to be domiciled in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. It should be noted that Jersey is not part of the UK.
Domicile is separate from other issues such as nationality and residence. For example, it is possible to be a national of Wales, resident in Spain but domiciled in Jersey.
Domicile of origin
A person has a domicile of origin at birth usually dependent upon the domicile of one of their parents.
A child cannot get a separate domicile from their parents until the age of majority is reached or they get married. If their parents change their domicile whilst the child is under the age of sixteen, that child acquires a domicile of dependence. In general it is difficult to change a domicile of origin even if a person has lived in another country for some years. For example, a person born in Scotland who is employed by a Scottish firm and who is temporarily living in Jersey may be regarded as still domiciled in Scotland.
Domicile of choice
Domicile can be changed by voluntarily moving permanently to another country. Domicile of origin is kept until a person can show that a new domicile has been acquired to the agreement of the relevant authorities. It is not enough to state an intention to acquire a new domicile in another country. It must be proven by actions and behaviour which ties with that stated intention; for example, the buying of a property in that new country.
Generally, the Courts place quite a burden of proof on individuals to show that a domicile of choice has been established. If a person leaves their domicile of choice and does not acquire a permanent home elsewhere, that person’s domicile reverts to their domicile of origin.
Residence is based on the actual facts, such as where a person is voluntarily living their normal everyday life and is often used for the purposes of establishing the jurisdiction of the Court to act in a particular case and for tax reasons. All the facts of the particular case need to be considered in order to establish whether a person is resident in a particular place. It is possible to be resident in more than one country but it is not possible to have more than one domicile.
In Jersey, you can establish the position of your residency with the Population Office. You should also get Tax advice if you have any income from the Island and spend periods of time in other tax jurisdictions.