Florida Homestead laws are one of the most popular in the country and attract thousands of new residents each year. But is this law as attractive as it appears?
Homestead laws in Florida refer to the legal and financial status granted to homeowners who make their primary residence in the state.
The Florida homestead laws are meant to protect Florida residents’ primary residences from creditors. Specifically, the Florida Constitution states in Article X, Section 4 that a creditor may not force the sale of a Florida resident’s primary residence to satisfy that creditor’s judgment.
What is Homestead Property in Florida?
In Florida, homestead property is the principal residence of a natural person that is no more than half an acre of contiguous land within a municipality or 160 acres within the unincorporated areas of a county. Contiguous land refers to property that shares a common border and that is touching.
Therefore, as long as the land remains contiguous and falls within the definition stated above, it will be protected until the homestead law even if it has a different legal description. If the contiguous property falls outside this definition, then the protection applies to the pro-rata share of the total value.
What qualifies as a primary residence is broadly defined and typically includes single-family homes, condominiums, mobile homes, etc. Essentially, any residence intended to be a Florida resident’s principal residence would qualify. There is no limit on the value or physical size of the structure to qualify for the Florida Homestead creditor protection. To learn more about how to become a Florida resident, explore our prior article: How to Establish Florida Permanent Residency.
How does the Florida Homestead law work to protect against creditors?
The Florida Homestead Law is a very powerful asset protection tool that protects an unlimited value of a Florida resident’s principal residence from being attached to by judgment creditors.
Since Florida’s law protecting Florida residents’ primary residences from creditors is written into the state’s Constitution, it is more established and secure than statutory laws. They also cannot be overwritten by statutory laws.
This law protects an unlimited value in a Florida resident’s homestead property. For this reason, folks regularly move to Florida and make it their principal residence to take advantage of this asset protection tool.
What are the benefits of being homesteaded in Florida?
By establishing a homestead, homeowners can enjoy a range of benefits and protections. In addition to the creditor protection provided in the Florida Constitution, Florida residents may benefit from the peace of mind these laws provide as well as the following list of benefits:
- Protection from Creditors: Florida’s homestead exemption offers protection from most creditors and lawsuits. However, certain exceptions to this protection include but are not limited to, loans obtained to purchase the property, certain liens recorded prior to obtaining homestead property as a result of community association due, certain state property taxes or IRS tax liens, as well as, construction liens due to improvements made to the property.
- Save on Taxes: The Save Our Homes assessment limitation prevents the assessed value of a Florida homestead property from increasing by more than 3% each year. This limitation can lead to significant savings on taxes over time.
- Property Tax Savings: One of the most significant advantages of homesteading is the reduction in property taxes. Florida homestead exemption law provides up to $50,000 exemption on the assessed value of a homestead property, which can result in substantial savings. There are also other benefits available to Florida property owners who may be senior citizens, those with disabilities, veterans and active-duty military service members, as well as disabled first responders.
- Portability: Tax savings are allowed to be transferred to You can transfer your Save Our Homes benefit to a new homestead property within Florida, which allows you to keep your property tax savings when moving.
- Surviving Spouse Protection: Homestead laws extend to surviving spouses by protecting them from losing the home if the other spouse passes away. This ensures they can remain in their primary residence.
Who qualifies for Homestead in Florida?
It is essential to meet the eligibility requirements and adhere to the application deadlines to fully benefit from these protective and financial advantages.
1. Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for Homestead in Florida, a legal Florida resident must meet certain criteria, including:
– The property must be the primary residence of the Florida resident.
– The Florida resident must have legal or equitable title to the property, meaning they must own the property and not simply reside in the property.
– The Florida resident must reside on the subject property as of January 1st of the application year. For example, for a Florida resident to benefit from all the homestead laws for the year 2023, they must have resided in the property on January 1, 2023.
2. File for Homestead: After a Florida resident qualifies for the homestead laws, they must make sure to file for the exemption prior to March 1st of the subject year. While the election does not need to be made each year, the application must be filed in the county’s property appraiser’s office in which the property is located.
3. Required Documents: When applying for a homestead exemption, it is necessary to prepare the requisite documents to prove residency, which may include:
– Proof of ownership of the subject property.
– A Florida driver’s license or identification card.
– Florida vehicle registration.
– Voter registration in Florida.
Other Considerations when applying Homestead laws in Florida:
- Probate: While homestead properties are not exempt from the probate process in cases of intestate estates or administering a Last Will and Testament, the protections against creditors survive the death of the owner(s) and pass along to the decedent’s heirs.
- Joint Ownership of a Florida Homestead Property: Co-ownership of a homestead property may affect the protections afforded by these laws if one of the co-owners does not reside in the property.
- Homestead Fraud: Ensure that you meet the criteria for homesteading to avoid potential legal issues, as there are strict penalties for homestead fraud.
- Second Homes: While you can have multiple properties, only your primary residence qualifies for the homestead exemption.
- Timely Filing: Apply for homestead before the March 1st deadline to take advantage of the benefits for the upcoming tax year.
- Consult an Attorney: To navigate the complexities of Florida homestead laws, consider consulting an attorney well-versed in property and real estate law.
Homestead in Florida Conclusions
Filing for Homestead protection in Florida is an excellent asset protection and financial decision that assists with the reduction of taxes, as well as,protects the value of the subject property.
To learn more about how Florida’s homestead exemptions may help with your financial and estate planning, be sure to consult with your legal professional.
Welcome to ASR
Welcome to ASR Law Firm! If you’re seeking a welcoming, friendly, and proactive team to help you with your transactional legal matter, I would be honored to speak with you. Let’s schedule a virtual consultation today!