A Declaration of Homestead is a legal instrument authorized by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 188, that protects a person’s home from attachment, execution and forced sales related to certain unsecured creditor claims, debts and judgments. The most common examples are judgments from lawsuits and credit card debt. Any person who owns a home and occupies it as their principal residence receives automatic protection (a.k.a. exemption) for $125,000.00. Any person who owns a home and occupies it as their principal residence may increase their protection amount to $500,000.00, by filing a written Declaration of Homestead at the Registry of Deeds in the county where the property is located. There is a special Homestead Declaration for the elderly and disabled which may offer higher protection amounts. Property owned by a Trust may be eligible for homestead protection.
Under the Homestead law a “home,” includes a single family home, a 2-4 unit family home, manufactured home, condominium unit, cooperative housing unit, and the proceeds from a house insurance policy against fire or other casualty loss.
Homestead protection is not absolute and does not protect against the following “exempted debts,” including debts and encumbrances existing prior to the filing of the Homestead, federal, state and local taxes and liens including (Medicaid benefits), mortgages, probate court executions for spousal or child support, court executions regarding actions in fraud, mistake, duress, undue influence and lack of capacity, and attachments of land not owned by the owner of the homestead.