A homestead protects a person’s home from certain creditors. In some states, this protection is automatic – when you purchase a home and live in it, you receive a certain amount of protection from creditors. In Massachusetts, you needed to declare a homestead, and file it with the probate court — until recently. On December 16th, 2010, Governor Patrick signed into law a bill containing a series of important amendments to the Homestead Act (Mass. General Laws, Ch. 188). The new provisions will be effective on March 16, 2011.
One important change is that homestead protection of $125,000 will be automatic; greater protection (up to $500,000) is available with the filing of a homestead declaration form. Forms are available to download from salemdeeds.com or from other county registry websites.
The other important change, particularly if you are doing estate planning (and really, why else would you be reading this blog?) is that a home held in a trust can now be protected by the homestead declaration. This provides clarity which has been lacking, and it tis a welcome change for homeowners who have elected to place their homes in trust. Next week I’ll talk about the benefits of putting your residence into a trust.