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New Massachusetts Homestead Law Benefits Homeowners

Posted by Jamie Downey  April 26, 2011 06:04 AM

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On March 16, 2011 the New Massachusetts Homestead Law took effect. This new law provides additional protections to homeowners as well as removes some ambiguities that were contained in the old law. The following is a good summation from real estate attorney Robert Bevans, of Topkins and Bevans, describing the law:

There are now three types of Homesteads available under the New Homestead Law. One is automatic and two must be created by the filing of a Homestead with the Registry of Deeds of the County where the Homestead property is located.

I. "Automatic Homestead"

There is an automatic protection in the amount of $125,000.00 for an individual’s principal residence against subsequent attachment. The property must be occupied, or intended to be occupied, as a principal residence of the property’s owner. The protection is provided to the individual and the other family members of his or her family living at the property.

II. The two Non-Automatic Homesteads available are as follows:

A. "Basic Homestead"

The protection provided to those who file a Homestead. The amount of protection is equal to $500,000.00 if the property is occupied, or intended to be occupied, as the owner’s principal residence.

B. "Elderly\Disabled Homestead"

This protection is provided only to the person making the Elderly or Disabled filing. The protection provided is in the amount of $500,000.00. The filer must be either 62 or older or meet the definition of “disabled” that is included in the statute. The property must also be occupied, or intended to be occupied as the filer’s principal residence.

How do you establish an Automatic Homestead?

As long as you meet the requirements set forth above, nothing needs to be filed.

How do you establish a Basic Homestead?

In order to establish the Basic Homestead, the requirements of Section 5 of the Statute must be complied with. An outline of these requirements is as follows:

1. The Declaration of Homestead must be signed by each owner of the property.
2. If there is a non-titled spouse, that individual must be identified in the Declaration.
3. The Declaration shall state that the each person named in it occupies, or intends to occupy the home, as their principal residence.
4. Trustees of property held in trust can now file a declaration of Homestead on behalf of the beneficiaries of the trust who occupy the property as their principal residence.

The Homestead can no longer be created as part of a deed; the Declaration of Homestead must be a separate filing.

How do you establish an Elderly\Disabled Homestead?

1. The same requirements for the Basic Homestead must be complied with and also:

a. There must be a statement that the owner to be benefited is an elderly person or a disabled person, and

b. An original or certified copy of a disability award letter issued to the person by the United States Social Security Administration or a letter signed by a physician registered with the board of registration of medicine certifying that the person meets the disability requirements as set forth in the New Homestead Act. The award letter or the physician’s letter shall be recorded with the declaration.

How can any Homestead be terminated?

1. A deed signed by the owners, or by the owner and the non-title holder spouse or former spouse who reside at the home as a principal residence
2. If a Trustee established the Homestead. then a deed signed by the trustee
3. A release signed by any of the above
4. A new Basic Homestead declaration being filed or
5. An abandonment of the home as a principal residence

How can an Elderly\Disabled Homestead be terminated?

1. Deed or release signed by the person who declared the Elderly\Disabled Homestead
2. Acquisition of a new Homestead
3. An abandonment of the home as a principal residence

If you have any additional questions or want to determine if creating a Homestead would be beneficial to you, contact Robert at rbevans@topbev.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Local finance professionals share insights and advice on issues such as budgeting, managing debt, and retirement planning.

About the contributors

D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit www.morganstanleyfa.com/ringer
Financial Planning Association™ of Massachusetts has 900 members who specialize in the financial planning process. Many of its members engage in philanthropic pro bono work in their communities, recommend legislation, elevate public awareness, promote financial literacy, and advocate for sound economic and tax policies.
Odysseas Papadimitriou is the founder of CardHub.com, a credit card and gift card marketplace, and WalletHub.com, a personal finance site. He has more than 13 years of experience in the personal finance industry, and previously served as senior director at Capital One.

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