Many states have some kind of homestead law. The specifics may vary, but the general purpose is the same: to allow homeowners to protect at least a portion of their home from creditors. Florida homestead laws are rather complicated. If you own a home in Florida, you need to learn the basics of Florida homestead law.
The Florida homestead exemption law affects Florida homeowners in three distinct ways:
The definition of Florida homestead under the Florida Constitution is relevant to this topic. The Constitutional definition applies where the homestead property is up to 0.5 acres in size within a municipality or up to 160 acres in size outside a municipality.
In accordance with the Florida statute regarding homestead, when a family member passes away, their primary place of residence, provided it meets the criteria for homestead protection, is categorized as a non-probate asset.
This legal designation means that once the probate court officially recognizes a property as protected homestead, it will circumvent the probate process entirely, thereby exempting it from being treated as part of the deceased person’s estate.
Instead, this residence falls under the umbrella of homestead protection, safeguarding it against forced sale to settle the deceased individual’s debts, with certain exceptions applying.
Following the owner’s passing, if the owner is survived by a spouse, absent some planning in advance, then they typically receive the protected homestead property. A creditor-enforced sale is thus off the table.
However, if a deceased owner explicitly specifies in their will that the homestead property should be sold after their demise, the property forfeits its protection against creditor claims upon their death.
Owners of homestead property enjoy property tax exemptions. For a residence located in Florida to be eligible for the homestead exemption, the person requesting homestead status must:
For example, Marilyn owns homes in Palm City and Vero Beach. However, her primary residence is in Palm City. She needs to visit the Martin County property appraiser’s office before March 1 to elect homestead status on her Palm City home.
Home owners and, in some cases, their heirs may not be forced to sell their homestead to pay off a civil judgment or other debts if it meets the definition under the Florida Constitution. This exemption, however, does not apply to judgments arising from the property itself. For example, homeowner association fees and foreclosures take precedence over the homestead exemption.
Due to Florida law, homeowners face some restrictions about how they pass their homes to heirs. The restrictions depend on whether the owner has a spouse or minor children, and how the property is titled.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOMESTEAD EXEMPTIONS IN PORT ST LUCIE?
John Mangan is an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who has been board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by the Florida Bar. At the Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., our guidance has enabled a better understanding of Florida Homestead Exemption for many clients. Call us at 772-210-3986 to set up an appointment or use our convenient Contact Form.