The Homestead Act And You
The Homestead Act is a law in Massachusetts where a homeowner can protect his or her home, up to $500,000, from creditors seeking to force the sale of one’ s home to pay a debt. Recent changes to the Homestead Act now provide an automatic homestead protection of $125,000 for those who do not file a homestead on their property at the Registry of Deeds.
Why should I file a homestead on my house if the law provides an automatic one?
The automatic exemption is limited to $125,000 and is not likely to be sufficient coverage to protect the full value of your home against creditors. Massachusetts law allows you to protect the value of your primary residence up to $500,000 per family, if you file a document called a “Declaration of Homestead” at the Registry of Deeds in the county where the property is located.
Does the Homestead Act protect against all creditors?
No, the following is a list of debts that are not protected by the act:
- Federal, state and local taxes and liens
- Mortgages on the home
- Debts existing prior to a Declaration of Homestead
- Court orders for spousal and child support
- Debts resulting from fraud, duress or Medicaid.
Can more than one homeowner file a Declaration of Homestead on the same property?
Yes, but only if both owners are over the age of 62 or disabled, and the house is the primary residence for both. For those over the age of 62, the law allows that regardless of marital status, you can be personally exempt up to $500,000 each. If two owners qualify for elderly or disabled homestead protection, the total protection can equal up to $1 million. Otherwise, only one owner may file under the Homestead Act.
Can I file a Declaration of Homestead on my vacation home?
No, the protections of The Homestead Act apply on one’s principal residence only.
How much does it cost to file a Declaration of Homestead?
Our office can prepare a Declaration of Homestead for $50 plus the Registry of Deeds filing fee of $35.
What if I file a Declaration of Homestead and I pass away? Will my family still be protected?
Yes. The law provides that the spouse and any minor children under the age of 21 shall be protected by the homestead. The homestead protection shall continue after the remarriage of a surviving or former spouse provided it is still their primary residence.
When should I file a Declaration of Homestead?
Because prior debts are excluded from a Declaration of Homestead, it is best to file soon after the purchase of your home. We can prepare one to be sent to the registry after recording your deed. However, a Declaration of Homestead can be filed at any time.
Does filing a Declaration of Homestead have an effect on my ability to sell or transfer the property?
Not at all. Even with a Declaration of Homestead, you can freely sell, trade, or gift your home to whomever you wish. Furthermore, it will not affect the transfer of your home by will in the event of your death. Furthermore, if the home is sold, the sale proceeds shall be protected by the homestead for one year after the date of the sale or on the date when a new home is purchased with the proceeds.
Get A Consultation To Ask More
The Homestead Act is quite complicated, and you may have many more questions to ask. Schedule a consultation with Stramer Law Offices and one of our attorneys can respond to your questions and comments. Convenient evening and weekend appointments available. Call our Milford office at 508-478-6944 or send us an email.