Changing the Domicile of an Incapacitated Person

When a person is incapacitated, may a court-appointed guardian change the residency and domicile location for the incapacitated from one jurisdiction to another?  This precise issue has been discussed in New Jersey in the case of Matter of Marguerite Seyse, 353 N.J. Super 580 (App.Div. 2002).  In that family squabble, two sisters were appointed co-guardians for their incapacitated mother.  The two sisters hated each other and agreed on very little with respect to their mother's guardianship, which had been established in New Jersey.  One night, without court approval, or even knowledge of the other sister, the incapacitated mother was moved from New Jersey to a home in Connecticut.  The court, after a hearing, found that the move to Connecticut was actually in the best interests of the mother.  It dissolved the co-guardianship and made the Connecticut sister the sole guardian of her mother while leaving the New Jersey sister as guardian of her mother's property.  After the mother died, a contest ensued to determine whether New Jersey or Connecticut was the appropriate domicile for the deceased.  The probate court found that the guardian had the ability to choose the domicile of her incapacitated mother and therefore Connecticut was chosen as the proper forum for the probate of the mother's estate.

Where Does the Decedent Live?

The first issue that must be met to probate a will in New Jersey is the domicile of the decedent.  A domicile is more than a home.  It is the location where the decedent intended to be his fixed home.  It is easy to imagine many people who have several homes in other states that they use for vacation and so on.  However, each person only has one diomicile.  It is the intent of the decedent that counts.

States will sometimes fight over the location of the place of domicile when estate or transfer taxes are being determined.  Facts looked at to determine location of domicile will most often include the following considerations:

  • Voting records
  • Driver's license address
  • Address set forth in the will
  • Length of time spent in each state
  • Decedent's place of work
  • Address on Form 1040 income tax
  • Location where the decedent died and was buried
  • Any other fact that may tend to prove the intent of the decedent.

 

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