Submitted by admin on Fri, 08/15/2008 - 15:13
What is a Homestead, and what does it do for me? -- Anonymous
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 188, Section 1 allows the owner or owners of a home who occupy that home as their principal residence to file a declaration of estate of homestead for that property. The declaration is a fairly simple document that becomes effective once filed at the Registry of Deeds in the county where the property is located.
A declaration of homestead protects the owner against most claims that arise after it is filed, up to $500,000. For example, if, after you file your homestead, you negligently injure another and that person is awarded damages in the amount of $100,000, he cannot force you to sell your home to pay the debt (except in some cases where the house is worth more than the protected amount).
Note, however, that the declaration of homestead only offers protection against claims that arise after you file the declaration, not against claims “for a debt contracted prior to the acquisition of said estate of homestead.” Also, the declaration offers no protection against certain types of claims, such as a forced sale for unpaid taxes or an execution issued from the probate court to enforce a judgment for support.
UPDATE: In bankruptcy situations, readers should be aware of a recent federal law under which the debtor must reside in state where the property is located for at least 40 months before he can claim a homestead exemption greater than $146,450