You may have heard of the Homestead Exemption that Florida provides to homeowners. The Homestead Exemption provides that a debtor’s homestead is completely protected from attachment by an unsecured creditor. Famous celebrities, such as O.J. Simpson, have purchased property in Florida with the Homestead Exemption in mind.
Who qualifies for Homestead Exemption?
The Homestead Exemption applies to houses, houseboats, mobile homes (even if the mobile home is located on land not owned by the owner of the mobile home), and travel trailers. To qualify for the Homestead Exemption, the homeowner must be registered to vote from the Florida address, must be a resident of the property, fall in the acreage limitation (half an acre if within a municipality or up to 160 acres if located outside a municipality), and be a natural person (a human being).
What benefits does the Homestead Exemption provide?
The homestead exemption has important benefits, such as asset protection, family protection, and property tax savings. Florida homeowners with the Homestead Exemption are protected from having their homes forcibly sold in order to pay off creditors. Although Florida is not the only state with laws like these, Florida stands out for the extra asset protection. For example, the value of home does not matter, all homes under the Homestead Exemption are protected from creditors. Additionally, a married homeowner may not transfer the homestead property without their spouses’ signature (even if the spouse is not listed on the property). Furthermore, the Homestead Exemption helps you save money by property tax savings – in Florida, every homeowner can receive a Homestead Exemption up to $50,000.
What is Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (“JTWROS”)?
You may have also heard about Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (“JTWROS”). JTWROS and the Homestead Exemption are two different things. In Florida, JTWROS means that the full title to property goes to the owner that survives. The “survivor” of the joint owner automatically owns 100% of the asset when the other joint owner passes away. JTWROS is a great way to avoid the long and stressful process of probate. Probate occurs after a person passes or becomes disabled; their assets are put on hold until the will is validated, any remaining debt is paid off, and the beneficiaries of the will are identified. However, there is a surprise unnerving factor, sometimes when one of the joint tenants has a debt and the creditor gets a judgment for it, the creditor can put a lien on the house.
What is Tenants by the Entirety?
Tenants by the entirety (“TBE”) occurs when a married couple owns property jointly, which can protect that property from creditors of an individual spouse. TBE is only available to married persons, so you cannot have TBE with any other family member that is not your spouse. Each state may have certain requirements for the property. For example, Florida TBE requires property to have joint ownership and control by a married party at the time the property was acquired, identical interest in the property which originated in the same instrument and commenced simultaneously, and after one spouse’s passing, the surviving spouse will own the property.