Homestead Property And Your Estate Plan
Owning a house, even a modest one, gives you a sense of financial security. A lot of people reasonably fear that they will never be able to afford to retire, but if you own a house with a paid off mortgage, you do not have that worry. Not everyone who owns a house outright is wealthy. Most of you were fortunate enough to buy the house decades ago, when prices were much lower, and to choose a house that was just the right size and in just the right location for you and your family. Florida law has a name for these unimpressive but economically important houses; they are called homesteads. Laws relating to homestead properties are somewhat different from those relating to other real estate properties. For advice about how your homestead property affects your financial future and your estate, contact an Orlando estate planning lawyer.
Is Your House a Homestead Property?
Every homestead is a house, but not every house is a homestead. If you own more than one house, only one of them can be your homestead, but it is possible that you can own one or more houses but none of them fit the definition of a homestead. Your house can only qualify as a homestead property if it is your primary residence. Furthermore, if it is located in a municipality, it cannot be on more than half an acre of land, but if it is not in a municipality, it can be on no more than 160 acres of land. Therefore, a spacious McMansion in the suburbs, with a front lawn, a backyard, and a swimming pool is not a homestead, even if it is your only house, but the same McMansion would qualify as a homestead if you had built it in an unincorporated rural area.
What Happens to Your Family Home After You Die?
Homesteads offer several important legal protections for their owners. They are protected from creditor claims against the owner during his or her lifetime and against the owner’s estate during probate. The probate court cannot force the personal representative of your estate to sell your homestead and give your heirs what is left of the proceeds after your estate pays creditors. In fact, your homestead is technically not even a probate asset, even though in practice, the probate court almost always finds out that the decedent owned a homestead property. If you own any other real estate properties, these do not enjoy the same protections. If there is room for debate about whether your house qualifies as a homestead property, you can ask the court to issue a court order declaring your house a homestead property. The personal representative of your estate can also request such a court order if a dispute arises during probate over whether your house has homestead property status.
Contact Gierach and Gierach About Estate Planning for Practical Homeowners
An estate planning lawyer can help you build your estate plan with the knowledge that your homestead is safe for your family. Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. in Orlando, Florida to discuss your case.