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Massachusetts law about homestead

A compilation of laws, cases and web sources on homestead law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

$500K Declared exemption

MGL c.188 Homesteads:

  • 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.

Forms

Declaration of Homestead for Homes Owned by Natural Persons, Mass. Secretary of Commonwealth. 

Declaration of Homestead for Homes Owned by Trustee(s), Mass. Secretary of Commonwealth. 

Selected case law

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. "

In Re Desroches, 314 BR 19 (2004)
Homestead protection was denied where the mortgage was filed after an earlier homestead declaration and mortgage did not specifically reserve the debtor's homestead rights.

In re Shove, (Bkrtcy. D. Mass., 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."

Homestead and bankruptcy

Massachusetts Law

Selected Case Law 

  • In Re Cunningham , 354 BR 547 (2006)
    • Where land subject to the bankruptcy debtor's homestead exemption was sold, the exemption protected the sale proceeds from any obligations acquired before the debtor filed the bankruptcy petition.
  • In Re Weinstein , 217 BR 5 (Bkrtcy. D. Mass., 1998)
    • Agrees with Whalen-Griffin and goes on to include both unsecured and secured pre-homestead debt under bankruptcy protection.
  • In Re Whalen-Griffin , 206 BR 277 (Bkrtcy. D. Mass., 1997)
    • Court said that federal bankruptcy statute preempted Massachusetts homestead exemptions. Effect is to protect homesteads from liens, even where debts are incurred prior to homestead recording.

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.

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

Print sources

Bankruptcy practice in Massachusetts , MCLE, loose-leaf, Chapter 8, Exemptions.

Latest techniques for middle class estates, MCLE, 2016.

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: June 13, 2018

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