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The Declaration of Homestead

The Massachusetts Homestead Act is explained in General Laws (MGL) Chapter 188. This act is designed to protect home ownership from execution and forced sale, as long as the owner or covered family member occupies or intends to occupy the property as his or her principal place of residence.

The Massachusetts Homestead Act provides limited protection of the value of the home (up to $500,000), against unsecured creditor claims, upon recording a Declaration of Homestead. Without filing, there is $125,000 worth of automatic protection on a principal residence.

The Homestead is filed at the Registry of Deeds for the county where the property is located. The act has two sections under which a person may file. Under Section 1, the owner of a home may file for the benefit of his or her family. Although only one owner files, a declaration filed by one spouse benefits both of them, and their children.

Under Section 1A, a person age 62 or older (or a disabled person) may declare an Elderly or Disabled Person’s Homestead. The Section 1A homestead benefit does not extend to other family members, but each qualified owner may file separately. Upon filing a Declaration of Homestead, the property is exempt from attachment, execution or forced sale for the payment of “non-exempted” debts. As of March 16, 2011, property held in trust is also eligible for protection.

The Homestead Act does not cover the following:

  • Federal, state, local taxes, and tax liens;
  • Mortgages contracted for the purchase of the home and most other mortgages;
  • Debts and encumbrances existing before the filing the Declaration of Homestead;
  • Probate court executions for spousal or child support;
  • Attachments on land not owned by the owner of the homestead;
  • Court ordered executions in cases of fraud, mistake, duress, undue influence, and lack of capacity.
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