“Home Sweet Homestead?” Making a Homestead Declaration

An “estate of homestead” is an interest in a principal residence that can help safeguard the owner (or the owner’s surviving spouse and dependent children) against the claims of creditors by protecting the property from execution and forced sale.

In Massachusetts, homeowners can obtain a Declaration of Homestead by filing a homestead declaration at the appropriate registry of deeds. All homesteads must be filed in the county in which the residence is located.

The homestead exemption has recently been raised from $300,000 to $500,000. This can help protect the assessed value of the property up to that amount from attachment, levy on execution, or sale for payment. The increase is automatic for those with existing homestead declarations on record.

There are two types of estates of homestead:

1.   The first may be declared by an owner of a home for the benefit of his or her family. The protection applies to the family, not the individual. Only one such declaration may be declared per household.

2.   The second type is filed on behalf of an elderly or disabled person. This is available to people aged 62 and up, or disabled persons. This applies to the individual, not the family and may therefore be declared by both spouses.

Upon reaching the age of 62, or if you become disabled, a family homestead converts to the individual type. At that point you may want to seek legal advice to determine if it is in your best interest to file a new declaration to protect family interests.

For additional information about homesteads please contact your legal advisor or call Gray, Gray & Gray at (781) 407-0300.

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