Homestead Exemptions in Florida

Thu, May 21, 2015

Bankruptcy, Estate Planning

 Some rights reserved by daryl_mitchellA homesteaded property offers various protections under Florida law, in cases of probate, divorce, bankruptcy, judgments, and more. It also exempts part of the property’s value from certain taxes.

A homesteaded property is protected from creditors of the estate during probate. Typically, homesteaded property passes on to descendants or other heirs under Florida law, and is not even considered a probate asset. If a surviving spouse is in the home, they usually retain a life interest in the property.

During a divorce, homesteaded property is often sold in an effort to fully divide the asset. The proceeds of this type of sale were debated in Kerzner v. Kerzner, which involved a divorcing couple and child support debts that the husband owed to a previous spouse. The appellate ruling on this particular case stated that proceeds from the sale still had homestead protection, thus they were not owed to settle the debts the husband had with his ex-wife.

Homesteaded property also offers some protection against people losing their homes during bankruptcy or resulting from a judgment. If you want to keep your homestead, part of or all of it is often exempt if certain requirements are met. If you are not claiming or benefiting from a homestead, you get an additional $4,000 in exemption towards personal property.

In Florida, homestead property basically refers to a primary residence. It is not automatic for purposes of receiving your tax benefit—there are procedures for applying for it. Every homeowner knows the pain of property taxes, and none more than Florida homeowners. When you purchase a home in Florida, don’t forget to file the appropriate paperwork to obtain your homestead exemption.

Remember, only residents who have lived in Florida for two years before filing are entitled to Florida homestead exemptions in bankruptcy. In order to protect your homestead interests, it’s important to establish Florida residency by:

  • Obtaining a Florida driver’s license and car registrations
  • Filing a Declaration of Domicile in Florida, and informing your previous state of residence
  • Paying federal income taxes as a Florida resident
  • Registering to vote in Florida

 

In Sarasota, you can register for homestead exemption at the Sarasota County Property Appraiser or online. Their website has a nice overview of different types of exemptions in addition to what documents and procedures you need to file for a homestead exemption.

Types of homestead exemptions include:

  • Disabled Veterans Homestead Property Exemption: This allows disabled veterans to apply for a discount when they meet certain qualifications. There are exemptions for those over 65 years of age and also those under this age.
  • Widow/Widower Exemption: $500, when all qualifications are met.
  • Disability Exemptions: Totally and permanently disabled Floridians are eligible for this type of exemption, as are those who are considered blind. As stated on the website, criteria for being considered blind: “Blind person” is defined as an individual having central vision acuity 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting glasses, or a disqualifying field defect in which the peripheral field has contracted to such an extent that the widest diameter or visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than twenty degrees.

As you can see, Florida offers many ways to protect your property from seizure in addition to offering ways to help those who may be unable to pay taxes by offering exemptions.

 

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

Image:  Some rights reserved by daryl_mitchell

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