Ins and Outs of the Massachusetts Homestead Law
Your personal liability insurance on your homeowners, automobile, and umbrella policies is designed to financially protect you if you are responsible for personal or property damage to a third party. But what happens when that coverage is not enough? There are many situations where you may not have the appropriate coverage, or where you may get sued for more than the amount of coverage that you carry. It is a very real possibility that your assets, including your house, would be vulnerable in a large personal injury settlement. The state of Massachusetts has developed the Homestead Act to help protect your primary residence against third-party claims. At Ellis Insurance we strongly recommend that, in addition to appropriate liability insurance coverage, all Massachusetts home and property owners file a Declaration of Homestead.
At Ellis Insurance we strongly recommend that, in addition to appropriate liability insurance coverage, all Massachusetts home and property owners file a Declaration of Homestead.
Below is information on what the Homestead is, what it covers, and how to file the appropriate paperwork.
There are two entirely separate estates of Homestead. The first is the estate of Homestead under M.G.L. c. 188 sec. 1.
This Homestead has a value of $300,000.00 and may be declared by an owner of a home for the benefit of his or her family. For the purposes of the Homestead law the word “family” includes either a parent and child or children, a husband and wife and their children, if any, or a sole owner. The property must be occupied as a principal residence. While the statute directly contradicts itself on this point it appears that only one spouse may declare a Homestead under M.G.L. c. 188, ss. 1.
The second type of Homestead is the elderly or disabled person Homestead under M.G.L. c. 188 sec. 1A. It is available to people sixty-two (62) years of age or older and disabled persons who meet the requirements of the statute. This Homestead has a value of $300,000.00 per person and may be declared by both spouses. It applies to the individual, not the family.
Homesteads are formalized by recording a Declaration of Homestead form at the Registry of Deeds. Forms are available at the Registry of Deeds for each county.
All Homesteads must be filed in the county in which the residence is located. Each county has slightly different requirements for filing the Homestead so it is important to contact the Registry of Deeds for your county directly. Contact information for each counties Registry can be found here.
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