by Howard S. Goldman, Esq.
For most of us, our home is the biggest investment we will ever make and the largest asset we will ever own. More important than that, it is the place where your family lives. To help protect your home in the event you are ever sued, the Massachusetts State Legislature recently increased the amount of exemption from $300,000 to $500,000 . Once filed, creditors cannot take your home to satisfy your debts up to $500,000 of equity in your home.
Main features of a Declaration of Homestead.
- You can declare homestead protection on a home you own if it is your family’s principal residence.
- An owner can now claim homestead with or without children, and whether or not married.
- The home can be a one, two, three family building, an apartment house, a condo unit, etc. so long as it is residential.
- Homestead cannot be claimed on a secondary residence, such as a cottage or summer home.
- You can’t have more than one homestead estate.
- Homestead can be filed by a sole owner, or, if there is more than one owner, by any of the owners. Only one should file to protect a family, except, if there are two owners and both are either disabled or over 62, it is advantageous for both to file.
- Homestead won’t stop enforcement of court orders for family support, unpaid taxes, or if debts involve duress, fraud, etc.
- Homestead won’t stop foreclosure for money used to buy the property (usually a mortgage) or debts incurred before you file the declaration of homestead.
- If the owner is under 62 and not permanently disabled, the law offers homestead protection of $500,000.
- An owner 62 or over, or permanently disabled, can file a claim for $500,000.
- If there are two owners – both either permanently disabled or at least 62 – each may file a five hundred thousand dollar homestead for a total of $1,000,000.
- Disability is proved by an “award letter” from Social Security, or, by a signed letter from your own doctor.
- If a declaration has been filed and the owner becomes disabled or sixty-two, a new form should be filed to increase the protection.
- Filing a Declaration of Homestead won’t prevent you from selling the property, leaving it to someone in your will, etc.
If a declaration has been filed by joint owners of a property, and later that property is conveyed, in any manner (even to one of the owners individually), a new declaration is required unless a specific reservation of homestead was in the initial filing. In re: Hildebrandt, Brian P., Lawyers Weekly, No. 03-001-05
This, one time, relatively inexpensive procedure can help to protect your most important asset, your family home.
Goldman & Pease provides prompt, courteous, and professional legal counsel to property owners, condominium associations, lending institutions, management companies and condominium developers in various real estate, zoning, and home closings matters.
Through their active involvement in the real estate, business, and litigation law sections of the Boston, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island Bar Associations, the CAI Attorneys Committee, REBA, and IREM, Goldman & Pease have demonstrated themselves to be on the forefront of changing real estate laws.
This Client Update is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in connection with the subject matter covered, but it should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any facts or circumstances. You are urged to consult an attorney concerning your own situation and any specific legal questions you may have.
The Greater Boston attorneys at Goldman & Pease, located in Needham, concentrate in business law, real estate law, condo law, civil litigation, and estate planning and serve the greater Boston metro region including Alston, Arlington, Belmont, Brighton, Brookline, Cambridge, Canton, Dedham, Dover, Milton, Natick, Needham, Newton, Norwood, Waltham, Watertown, Wayland, Wellesley, Weston, West Roxbury, Westwood, and all of Massachusetts.