Massachusetts homestead act

We’ve been following the decade old attempt to modernize the Massachusetts Homestead Act, and are happy to report Gov. Patrick signed it into law last Thursday. The law provides up to $500,000 in creditor protection, but you need to record a Declaration of Homestead with your county Registry of Deeds. Contact us and we’ll prepare and file it for you!

Highlights:

  • All Massachusetts homeowners will receive an automatic homestead exemption of $125,000 for protection against certain creditor claims on their principal residence without having to do anything.
  • All Mass. residents are eligible for a $500,000 “declared homestead exemption” by filing a declaration of homestead at the registry of deeds. For married couples, both spouses will now have to sign the form–which is a change from prior practice.
  • Homesteads are now available on 2-4 family homes, and for homes in trust.
  • The existing “elderly and disabled” homestead will remain available at $500,000.
  • If you have a homestead as a single person, and get married, the homestead automatically protects your new spouse! Homesteads now pass on to the surviving spouse and children who live in the home.
  • You do not have to re-file a homestead after a refinance. There’s always been confusion here, with lenders requiring homeowners to either subordinate or release homesteads. Under the new law, homesteads are automatically subordinate to mortgages, and lenders are specifically prohibited from having borrowers waive or release a homestead.
  • Closing attorneys in mortgage transactions must now provide borrowers with a notice of availability of a homestead.

Click here to read our prior posts on the new Massachusetts Homestead Law.

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New Massachusetts Homestead Act Set To Become Law

by Rich Vetstein on November 18, 2010

New Homestead Law Went Into Effect 3/16/11 (click here to download)

Automatic $125,000 Homestead For All Mass. Residents; Up to $500,000 In Homestead Protection

For less than $100, a Massachusetts homestead provides a simple and inexpensive asset protection device which shields a principal home from up to $500,000 in certain creditor’s claims. Now the Legislature has passed the long awaited revisions to the Massachusetts Homestead Act (Senate Bill 2406), giving homeowners expanded protection. Pending some minor amendments, the Governor is expected to sign the bill.

Here’s a summary of highlights of the amended bill:

  • All Massachusetts homeowners will receive an automatic homestead exemption of $125,000 for protection against certain creditor claims on their principal residence without having to do anything.
  • All Mass. residents are eligible for a $500,000 “declared homestead exemption” by filing a declaration of homestead at the registry of deeds. For married couples, both spouses will now have to sign the form–which is a change from prior practice.
  • If you already have a homestead recorded at the registry of deeds, you do not have to re-file it. You are all set, and have the full $500,000 protection.
  • Homesteads are now available on 2-4 family homes, and for homes in trust.
  • The existing “elderly and disabled” homestead will remain available at $500,000.
  • If you have a homestead as a single person, and get married, the homestead automatically protects your new spouse! Homesteads now pass on to the surviving spouse and children who live in the home.
  • You do not have to re-file a homestead after a refinance. There’s always been confusion here, with lenders requiring homeowners to either subordinate or release homesteads. Under the new law, homesteads are automatically subordinate to mortgages, and lenders are specifically prohibited from having borrowers waive or release a homestead.
  • Closing attorneys in mortgage transactions must now provide borrowers with a notice of availability of a homestead.

As part of all residential real estate transactions, I always ask clients if they would like me to prepare a homestead declaration for a nominal fee ($40 + $35 state recording fee). Now that the protections are enhanced and attorneys are obligated to disclose, every homeowner should opt to declare a homestead. Please contact us at 781-247-4250 if you would like a homestead recorded on your property.

More info: Secretary of State Homestead Guide

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There’s a bill (House Bill No. 1584) currently pending this legislative session to update the Massachusetts Homestead Law which would provide additional financial protections to homeowners and consumers in Massachusetts.homestead-stamp

A Massachusetts homestead declaration is a simple and inexpensive tool enabling homeowners to protect up to $500,000 of equity in their principal residence from the majority of creditors. The mechanism is relatively simple. All that is required is the preparation and recording of a Declaration of Homestead with the applicable Registry of Deeds and the payment of a state mandated recording fee. The total cost is typically around $100 to prepare and record the instrument.

The Homestead Exemption provides protection and security to homeowners, eliminating the threat that the equity in their principal residence could be exposed to satisfy common unsecured debts or obligations.

Many feel that the Homestead Law (M.G.L. c. 188 §1, et seq.) is greatly in need of modernization. If ultimately passed, this homestead bill will have a significant impact in favor of Massachusetts consumers and  homeowners who run into financial difficulty.

Here’s a summary of the changes:

  • There will be automatic homestead protection, without the need for recording a declaration, of up to $125,000 in equity, which amount corresponds to some of the limitations on homestead exemptions enacted in 2005 in the Federal Bankruptcy Code as part of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (“BAPCPA”). Individuals and families with more equity in their homes will still have a significant incentive to record a standard declaration to protect up to $500,000 of their equity (the amount of the declared exemption under current law).
  • Beneficiaries of trusts are entitled to homestead protection
  • Mortgages cannot terminate previously filed homesteads – instead, any provision in a mortgage that purports to terminate a homestead is deemed merely to subordinate the homestead to such mortgage
  • Proceeds from the sale of a home, or insurance proceeds, are entitled to homestead protection (for up to a year for sale proceeds, and two years for insurance proceeds)
  • Transfers among family members will not terminate a previously declared homestead – even if the homestead isn’t reserved in the deed
  • Manufactured homes are eligible for protection under all provisions of the statute

We always highly recommend that our buyer clients record a homestead on their principal residence if they have not done so already. The new law will protect those who don’t (up to $125,000), but will provide even more incentive for those who do.

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