Massachusetts law about homestead

Laws, cases and web sources on homestead law.

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Massachusetts laws

St. 2010, c. 395, § 3 An act relative to the estate of homestead
"All existing estates of homestead in effect on the effective date of this act shall continue in full force and effect notwithstanding the repeal of any law under which they were created and shall be governed by this act, notwithstanding their failure to comply with the execution requirements of section 5 of chapter 188 of the General Laws, as appearing in section 1 of this act."

St. 2022, c. 175, §§ 30A-30G, An Act to improve and modernize the information technology systems and capacities of the Judiciary
Updates the Massachusetts Homestead Law.

MGL c. 188 Homesteads:

$500K  Declared exemption
  • Automatically protects up to $125,000 in home equity without filing
  • Protects up to $500,000 for those who file for homestead protection
  • Allows both spouses to file
  • Clarifies that there is no need to re-file after refinancing
  • Provides coverage for homes kept in trusts and much more

MGL c. 188, § 2 Homestead protection for elderly or disabled persons

MGL c. 188, § 10 Termination of estate of homestead
Nine different methods for terminating a homestead. "A divorce judgment or decree of a court competent jurisdiction shall release the homestead of a spouse who (a) is required therein to convey title to the home to the other spouse, or (b) was not an owner of the home and was not awarded therein either title or possessory rights in the home."

MGL c. 235, § 34 (cl.14) Bankruptcy exemption for estates of homestead

MGL c. 236, § 18 Homestead property; levy of execution


Declaration of homestead for homes owned by natural persons, Mass. Secretary of Commonwealth. 
File with your local Registry of Deeds. Can be filed by mail with notarized signatures and check. Filing fee is $35 for the state but check with your Registry of Deeds for any additional county fees.

Declaration of homestead for homes owned by trustee(s), Mass. Secretary of Commonwealth. 

Selected cases

Boyle v. Weiss, 461 Mass. 519 (2012)
Under 2004 (not 2010) law, "a holder of a beneficial interest in a trust which holds title to real estate and attendant dwelling in which such beneficiary resides may not acquire an estate of homestead in said land and building under G.L. c. 188, § 1. . . . The 2010 act authorizes the 'owner' of a home to file a homestead declaration. . . and defines ‘[o]wner’ as ‘a natural person who is a sole owner, joint tenant, tenant by the entirety, tenant in common, life estate holder or holder of a beneficial interest in a trust.'"

Hartog, Baer & Hand, A.P.C. v. Clarke, 99 Mass. App. Ct. 460 (2021)
"A judgment creditor may levy on an execution upon property protected by homestead and then suspend any further action to collect on the execution until the homestead has lapsed or the homeowner's equity in the home exceeds the amount protected by the homestead exemption."

In re Shove, 585 BR 250 (2018)
The debtors' use of a portion of the property for commercial purposes does not remove the property from the protection of homestead exemption claimed under Massachusetts law. The building does not have to be used predominantly as their home. "This Court does not read the Homestead Statute as imposing a predominant use requirement."

Merrill v. Ewen, 103 Mass. App. Ct. 37 (2023)
". . . the exemption from the homestead estate of a child support order for a minor child under the Homestead Act, G.L. c. 188, § 3 (b) (4) (act), although applicable to an order in the nature of support and not limited only to the more common form of periodic child support payments, did not apply to the father’s obligation, where the unemanicpated daughter was an adult."

Web sources

Deeds and homestead releases, Lowell Deeds Blog.
Discusses the issues involved with a non-titled spouse and the transfer of property.

Homestead, Lowell Deeds Blog.
Collection of blog posts from the ever-helpful Lowell Register of deeds. Explains the law in some detail.

Homestead protection law, Mass. Legal Help, 2024.
Explains homestead protection and how to file for it, and also provides answers to common questions.

The Homestead Protection Act, Mass. Secretary of State.
Includes a questions and answers pamphlet on who may file, where to file, and an overview of the protections homestead offers and forms.

Massachusetts Registry of Deeds, Mass. Secretary of State.
Provides links to all of the Registries of Deeds, which then provide access to addresses, phone numbers and websites for the individual registries. Use this link to check if a Declaration of Homestead is recorded on your property.

Print sources

Bankruptcy practice in Massachusetts, 2nd ed., MCLE, loose-leaf, Chapter 6.3.1 The Massachusetts Homestead Exemption.

Real estate law, with forms, annual edition, (Mass. Practice v. 28), Thomson Reuters. Chapter 6 Dower and Homestead.

Summary of basic law, 5th ed. (Mass. Practice v. 14C), Thomson Reuters, 2014 with supplement. Sections 14:120-127.

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Last updated: March 13, 2024

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