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USING THE MASSACHUSETTS HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION IN YOUR ESTATE PLAN

2012 Nell J. DePuul, Attorney ut Luw, www.nelldepuulluw.com



Chunces ure good thut the most
vuluuble usset you huve ls your home. You
huve worked hurd to puy the mortguge for
twenty or more yeurs, rulsed u fumlly there,
und now the equlty ln thelr home cun represent
the most vuluuble usset ln your retlrement
portfollo. Mussuchusetts resldents huve u
vurlety of tools thut cun be used to protect thelr
home from llens, uttuchment, selzure,
executlon of |udgment, levy or sule und credltors. Thls post dlscusses one of them, the
Mussuchusetts Homesteud Exemptlon. Future posts wlll dlscuss other optlons for protectlng your
home such us revocuble trusts, lrrevocuble trusts, churltuble trusts, und other estute plunnlng
optlons.
Wlth the uveruge home prlces ln Eustern Mussuchusetts hoverlng uround or exceedlng
S500,000.00
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lt ls lmportunt for homeowners to plun to protect thelr most vuluuble usset. Chupter
188 of Mussuchusetts Generul Luws Homesteuds, offers one form of protectlon from credltors und
those wlshlng to uttuch |udgments to your home. However, thls protectlon only covers the flrst
S125,000.00 uutomutlcully. Flllng u declurutlon of homesteud wlth the Reglstry of Deeds ln the
county where the reul property ls locuted wlll generully lncreuse your protectlon to ut leust
S500,000.00. Thls umount of protectlon ls uvulluble to lndlvlduul owners or to those who ure numed
beneflclurles to trusts thut muke thut reul property thelr prlmury resldence.

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
The flrst wuy to protect your home ls through the provlslons of Mussuchusetts Generul Luw
(M.G.L.) chupter 188 the Homesteud. The homesteud operutes to protect the reul property of uny
lndlvlduul who uses thls property us thelr prlmury resldence. A prlmury resldence ls consldered to
be the pluce where the owner (or beneflclury of u trust) resldes or lntends to reslde. (M.G.L. c188
1) A homesteud declurutlon wlll protect the reul property, the home, und uccessory structures from
uttuchments, selzure, executlon of u |udgment, levy or sule for puyment of debts up to u certuln
dollur umount.

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Trulia.com, Average Listing Prices for Massachusetts Counties, http://www.trulia.com/home_prices/
Massachusetts/, Week ending December 21, 2011.
A homesteud exemptlon wlll not protect the owner from: (see M.G.L. c 188 3(b))
u. sule for federul, stute, or locul tuxes, ussessments, clulms or llens
b. u llen on the home recorded prlor to the creutlon of the homesteud
c. u mortguge on the home
d. chlld support or ullmony orders
e. court orders regurdlng fruud, mlstuke, duress, undue lnfluence or luck of cupuclty
f. levy, llen, uttuchment, selzure or sule of bulldlngs locuted on the reul property sub|ect
to the homesteud but not owned by the reul property owner holdlng the homesteud
There ls un uutomutlc homesteud protectlon on uny reul property und home for owners who
ure uslng the property us thelr prlmury resldence. Thls uutomutlc exemptlon upplles to homeowners
thut do not reglster u homesteud exemptlon wlth the county Reglstry of Deeds. The uutomutlc
umount ls S125,000.00. (M.G.L.c 188 1 und M.G.L. c 188 4). If you flle u declurutlon of
homesteud wlth the Reglstry of Deeds the exemptlon umount lncreuses to ut leust S500,000.00. The
current cost of flllng for thls exemptlon ls S35.00. Every county Reglstry of Deeds wlll be uble to
provlde you wlth the necessury form to muke u declurutlon of homesteud under M.G.L. chupter 188.
Secretury of Stute Wllllum Fruncls Gulvln ulso hus these forms uvulluble here:
http://www.sec.stute.mu.us/rod/rodhom/homldx.htm
Generully the umount of u homesteud exemptlon wlll remuln ut S500,000.00 however,
M.G.L. c 188, does muke provlslons for thls umount to lncreuse ln certuln cuses. One reuson thut
thls homesteud exemptlon mlght lncreuse ls becuuse the owner or owners ure slxty-two (62) yeurs of
uge or older und muke lt thelr prlmury resldence. Once you turn slxty two, you ure consldered un
elderly person under M.G.L. c 188 (see sectlon 1) und euch owner-resldent ls entltled to u
S500,000.00 homesteud exemptlon. In most cuses, ussumlng u murrled couple euch uged 62 wlth
no other owners of the reul property, thls meuns thut the reul property wlll huve u S1,000,000.00
exemptlon.
The blggest cuveut to belng slxty-two yeurs of uge or older und quullfylng sepurutely for u
S500,000.00 homesteud exemptlon ls how thls exemptlon muy termlnute. Under sectlon 2 of M.G.L.
c 188, u homesteud exemptlon for un elderly or dlsubled person shull termlnute lf:
u. thut elderly or dlsubled person sells or trunsfers thelr ownershlp lnterest ln the home
b. thut elderly or dlsubled person records u releuse of homesteud
c. thut elderly or dlsubled person declures u homesteud exemptlon ln unother property
d. thut elderly or dlsubled person ubundons the home us thelr prlnclpul resldence
e. thut elderly or dlsubled person dles
f. lf homesteud ls by trust, the executlon of u releuse from homesteud by the trustee
In plunnlng for your retlrement, future, or other contlngencles, lt ls lmportunt to tuke lnto
conslderutlon how the homesteud exemptlon muy termlnute for un lndlvlduul spouse. For exumple,
lf one spouse needs to move lnto un usslsted llvlng fuclllty or nurslng cure fuclllty, thut spouse muy
no longer quullfy for the homesteud exemptlon of S500,000.00 slnce the home upon whlch the
homesteud declurutlon wus mude ls no longer thelr prlmury resldence. The spouse remulnlng ln the
home wlll stlll contlnue to quullfy for thelr homesteud exemptlon of S500,000.00. But thls meuns
thelr murltul home ls now potentlully only exempted from S500,000.00 not S1,000,000.00.
Addltlonully, plunnlng ulso requlres tuklng lnto conslderutlon of whut ls not exempted.
M.G.L. c 188 3(b) llsts the clrcumstunces when u home wlll not be protected by the homesteud
declurutlon. The most concernlng ls M.G.L. c 188 3(b)(1) whlch stutes thut the homesteud
exemptlon wlll not protect ugulnst federul, stute und locul tuxes, ussessments, clulms und llens. If
you were to requlre long term cure under Medlculd puld through the Mussuchusetts Depurtment of
Trunsltlonul Asslstunce uny llen lmposed to collect puyment would not be deflected by the
homesteud exemptlon. The Commonweulth currently wlll not look to the resldence of Medlculd
reclplent or the spouse of the Medlculd reclplent for puyment whlle elther ls ullve, but thls cun
chunge, posslbly ln the mlddle of your cure, und leuve your spouse ln u dlre posltlon.
As of Murch 16, 2011, the homesteud exemptlon ulso upplles for those resldents who ure not
owners but lnsteud, beneflclurles of u trust. Therefore, flllng for u homesteud exemptlon should be
consldered no mutter whut other protectlon mechunlsms you employ. If you ure the beneflclury of u
trust, the trustee must flle the homesteud exemptlon. Further lnformutlon und explunutlons on the
Homesteud Exemptlon cun be obtulned from the Secretury of the Commonweulths Questlons und
Answers: The Homesteud Act Mussuchusetts Generul Luws, Ch 188 1-10.
Remember, good estute plunnlng strutegles not only tukes lnto uccount whut ls to be
sheltered but ulso your future needs untlclputed or contlngency. For exumple, you should plun not
only for the good tlmes but ulso for your needs should you become dlsubled or fuce serlous lllness
requlrlng nurslng cure or usslsted llvlng cure. A good plun wlll ulso lnclude dlscusslons ubout the tux
lmpllcutlons of your strutegy und lnclude devlces for currylng out your wlshes for treutment, puyment
of bllls, und settllng of your estute us you deslre.
Thls ls wrltlng ls only meunt to provlde you wlth lnformutlon. Thls puper ulone cunnot be
used to creute un estute plun. Euch fumlly sltuutlon ls dlfferent und u seemlngly smull chunge ln
clrcumstunces cun huve profound lnfluence on your plunnlng requlrements. Your uttorney wlll be
uble to dlscuss your strutegy ln more detull. When you ure reudy to creute your estute plun muke
sure to dlscuss some of the other tools uvulluble ln Mussuchusetts such us u heulth cure proxy, llvlng
wlll, duruble power of uttorney, und slmple wlll wlth your uttorney.