Co–authored by Kristine M. Scott, Estate Planning Associate
When it comes to asset protection, there is nothing stronger than Florida’s homestead exemption.
Florida’s constitution provides that your homestead is exempt from “forced sale” from any court. What does that mean?
Creditors (other than someone to whom you voluntarily give a lien against your home, such as the lender on your home mortgage) cannot levy and execute on any judgment against property that qualifies as your homestead.
Our constitution grants protection for your personal residence up to one-half acre (if you’re located within a municipality) or up to 160 acres (if your home is located in part of an unincorporated county).
Some counties, such as Duval, that have consolidated forms of government may actually have to reference pre-consolidation city limits to determine the extent of homestead protection.
To receive homestead protection, you must:
- be a natural person who is a Florida resident,
- have legal or beneficial title to the home,
- reside in the home as your personal residence on January 1 of the year you apply, and
- meet the previously mentioned size requirements above.
While these requirements seem simple, there has been a lot of legal arguments, particularly as to who or what constitutes a “natural person.”
For example, while most authorities now are comfortable that a revocable trust qualifies, this was the subject of a lot of litigation in the past.
Once the requirements are met, the homestead status generally stays in place until you inform the property appraiser’s office otherwise or until the property appraiser determines you no longer meet the requirements.
Benefits of Homestead Status
Assuming that your property meets the homestead requirements, there are generally two forms of protections: real property taxes and creditor protection.
Your homestead is entitled to certain exemptions from property taxes. Generally, the first $50,000 value of your home is exempt from property tax. Your home is also protected by Florida’s “Save our Homes” cap.
The “Save our Homes” cap limits how much your home’s value can increase from year to year for the purpose of determining the value of your home for property taxes. Further, this cap may be transferred from one property to another in certain circumstances.
For a complete list of exemptions in relation to your property taxes, visit the Florida Department of Revenue’s website.
As previously stated above, another benefit is that a judgment holder cannot force you to sell your homestead to pay off a judgment if someone sues you and is awarded a judgment against you.
At your death, your homestead is still protected from any judgment holders if the property passes to certain protected heirs (your surviving spouse, children, siblings, nieces/nephews, etc.). However, certain judgments specific to your homestead, such as a foreclosure, past due association fees, or contractors’ liens will trump any homestead protections.
If you have any questions about your homestead, contact us today at 904-807-2183.