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 homestead exemption 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.
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. Her daughter, Sandy, lives in the Vero Beach home under an enhanced life estate deed. Sandy may be able to claim homestead status in Indian River County, but not Marilyn.
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, home owner 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.
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., we have assisted many clients in developing comprehensive estate plans that meet their needs. Call us at 772-324-9050 to set up an appointment or use our convenient Contact Form.