The rules governing HOMESTEAD Protection or Exemption apply in three contexts:
- Real Estate Tax Exemption
- The list of exemptions includes among others, a cap on assessments called Save Our Homes and exemptions for widows, veterans and the blind.
- The exemptions may give you significant savings on your real estate taxes.
- Creditor Protection
- Florida prohibits creditor judgments from attaching to your homestead, keeping the creditor from forcing you to sell your home to pay off a judgment.
- However, there are certain creditor claims that can still attach to your homestead such as IRS liens, foreclosures, past-due homeowner association fees and contractors’ liens.
- Transfer at Death
- The laws governing transfers of homestead at the owner’s death will depend on whether or not you were married at the time of your death and if your heirs are minor children.
- If you have no spouse and no minor children, then you can leave the homestead to whomever you want.
- If you have a minor child and are married with your homestead titled in joint names with your spouse, then your protected homestead goes to your spouse by right of survivorship. However, if the property is in your name only, your spouse has two options: take a life estate (right to live in the property for his or her remaining lifetime) with the home passing to your children at his or her death, or take a half ownership interest and the children will receive the other half.
- Specific rules govern the transfer of your home if you have a spouse and adult children.
The laws benefit you during your lifetime, but the transfer of your property at your death can affect your survivors and lead to disappointment and division. To ensure that you understand all aspects of the Florida homestead laws, consider consulting an experienced estate planning and probate attorney to help you plan appropriately and avoid family setbacks, hardships and discontent after you have passed.
To qualify for Homestead Exemption:
- You must be a permanent resident of Florida residing on the property as your primary residence as of January 1st.
- The deadline to submit the application for exemption is March 1st (for the year in which you wish to qualify)