The Declaration of Homestead in Massachusetts

Have you heard the term homestead declaration and wondered what that is or if you have to file a declaration of homestead in Massachusetts? Homeowners in Massachusetts have three options for a homestead declaration. The Declaration of Homestead form must be filed within six months of establishing residence in your home. If you fail to do so before the deadline, you will not be eligible for homestead protection under this law. Read on to learn more about filing the Declaration of Homestead in Massachusetts.

What Is a Homestead Declaration?

A homestead declaration can protect homeowners against a variety of creditors. It can provide protection when unforeseen circumstances cause you to fall behind on paying your bills. It prevents these creditors from selling your home and seizing your equity to pay your bills. 

Homestead protection does not protect your home against loans secured with the home. For example, if you fall behind on mortgage payments, a homestead declaration will not protect you from foreclosure. A declaration of homestead in Massachusetts covers the primary owner, their spouse, any relatives, or minor children living in the home as a primary residence.

The home covered under the declaration of homestead must be your primary residence. You must live in the home, or you must intend to live in the home. It can be a single-family residence, a manufactured home, a multi-unit home (2-4 units), or a cooperative home. Your level of ownership may vary from sole owner to joint owner to beneficiary of a trust.

What are the different kinds of declarations?

There are three kinds of declaration of homestead in Massachusetts—automatic, regular, or declaration by elderly or disabled persons. These declarations protect against seizures of the home to be sold to satisfy debts. The level of homestead protection you need depends on the amount of equity you have in your home. 

Homeowners in Massachusetts have an automatic homestead declaration that covers up to $125,000. If you have $125,000 or less in equity in your home, you are covered without filing a declaration of homestead in Massachusetts. 

Filling out a declaration of homestead is also known as a simple declared homestead. This will increase the homestead coverage to $500,000. Your spouse must also sign the declaration of homestead in Massachusetts if they are a co-owner of the home. 

If a disabled or elderly homeowner files a declaration of homestead, they qualify for $500,000 coverage. If two people own the same home and both are elderly or disabled, both can file, and the coverage amount is doubled. If two people own the same home and one is disabled or elderly, and the other isn’t, then both can file a homestead declaration under different portions of the homestead law.  

How To File a Declaration of Homestead in Massachusetts

There is no filing required for the automatic declaration of homestead in Massachusetts. To file for additional homestead protection, you must first fill out the declaration form. You and your spouse must sign the form if you are co-owners of the home and then get it notarized. Bring or mail the form, a self-addressed stamped envelope, and the fees ($35 as of March 20, 2022) to the Registry of Deeds office for your area. 

The state fees must be paid by cash or check. You will want to check with your local Registry of Deeds office to verify if there are any local or county fees associated with filing a declaration of homestead in your local area. The self-addressed, stamped envelope you provide will be used to return the filing to you.

Final Thoughts

If you are a homeowner in Massachusetts and want to protect your property, you should consider filing a Declaration of Homestead. This document can offer some peace of mind in knowing that your home is protected from creditors in the event of a bankruptcy or other legal proceeding. For additional questions about the Declaration of Homestead, reach out to Attorney Jess Albino at 774-641-4201 or [email protected].