Decoding The Florida Homestead Laws
When one is preparing their estate planning documents, one of the issues that may cause confusion is the Florida homestead, and its exemption from bankruptcy or judgment creditors. This can be of great help for your beneficiaries, ensuring that more of your estate makes it to them rather than winding up in the pockets of creditors. If you have questions or concerns about the homestead exemption, contacting an experienced attorney may be very helpful in helping determine how best to proceed.
In order to qualify for a Florida homestead exemption, there are certain requirements that one has to establish. You must be a permanent Florida resident, and the property in question must be your primary homestead. While trusts may own homesteads, they must otherwise be owned by a “natural” person, rather than a corporation or other legal entity. The intent of the homestead exemption is not to provide a tax shelter to all and sundry, but rather, to equalize the tax burden on Florida residents.
The major advantage to a homestead exemption is that the property that claims the exemption may not be levied or sold to satisfy a creditor’s judgment. If a judgment is awarded against you or your estate, some of your assets may be seized (or claimed during probate) in order to cover the debt, but the law prevents this from happening to the homestead, which is most often the marital home. The idea is to leave a debtor with at least the roof over his head, and the ability to provide for any family they may have. There are exceptions that trump the homestead exemption, such as a previous foreclosure, but on the whole, a debtor’s property will be protected.
The other reason that so many Floridians apply for homestead exemptions is to have more control over who will get the home after their passing. State law holds that the homestead is not included in probate, and cannot be touched by the decedent’s creditors; if there are no other assets the creditor can reach to satisfy the decedent’s debt, they are essentially out of luck. In addition, the law prevents the transfer of the homestead during the owner’s lifetime if they are married, and after they pass away, they are required to leave the homestead either to the surviving spouse, or to a surviving minor child if they have no spouse. Many people prefer to know that their immediate family will be provided for no matter what (with rare exceptions).
If you are unsure as to whether your property will qualify as a homestead under the Florida law, it may be a good idea to consult an attorney, as it is important to understand exactly what requirements your property must meet. Even if your property does not qualify for the homestead exemption, there are other laws that may render your home safe from creditors – for example, mobile homes may not qualify as homesteads, but there are other laws that render them immune from creditors’ judgment in most cases.
Contact A Florida Homestead Attorney To Help Answer Your Questions
A homestead exemption can be of great help for both tax purposes and estate planning. However, there are countless small details that can make applying for one and utilizing one quite confusing. If you have concerns about seeking your own homestead exemption, our Florida domicile lawyers at the Nici Law Firm can guide you through the process and try to ensure that your assets are protected and held in trust for those you want to have them. Call us today at (239) 449-6150 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.