Massachusetts homestead law recognizes that your home is a special type of possession which is different from other property. As a result, your home may be protected even in circumstances where other assets may need to be sold. This can impact your ability to qualify for Medicaid benefits.
Massachusetts homestead law, and the protections which the law provides, can be complicated. It is important that you understand what your rights and obligations are and that you do what you need to in order to protect your home.
The Law Offices of James A. Miller, P.C. can provide you with assistance in understanding what the Homestead Act means for you.
What is the Massachusetts Homestead Act?
The Massachusetts Homestead Act is found in Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 188 section 1-10. The Massachusetts Secretary of State provides comprehensive information about how the Homestead Act works and what it means to homeowners.
An owner of a home who occupies the home, or who intends to occupy the home, can file for homestead protection and have the house declared to be a homestead. All co-owners, including people with a life-estate in the property (an interest in the home during their lifetime), are eligible for homestead protection. An owner whose home is held in trust is also eligible for a homestead exemption, and the trustee may have the property declared a homestead for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries
All co-owners of a property who will be living in the property as their primary residence can file a declaration of homestead in the country or district Registry of Deeds in the area where the home is located.
How Does Massachusetts Homestead Law Protect Assets?
The Homestead Act recognizes the important role that the home plays in your life, and provides you with security so your home cannot be easily lost. When you have filed your homestead declaration, the property that serves as your principle residence (and that you have had declared as your homestead) is protected and given special status under the law.
The Homestead Act protects against seizure of the home, attachment, execution on judgment, or the sale and levy of the home for the payment of debts except for mortgage debt, tax debt, spousal support orders, and in certain cases of fraud. Up to $500,000 of the value of a home is protected by the Homestead Act.
This means if a lien is put on your property, you cannot be forced to sell your primary residence unless you fall within one of the exceptions to Homestead Protection. Each homeowner who has declared the house their homestead and who considers the home his or her primary property is protected by the Homestead Law.
There is, however, an exception to the general rule regarding liens and claims on homesteaded homes. Any liens which are imposed by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance because of Medicaid benefits paid out to the homeowner are exempt from homestead protection. This means that the state could look to a property owner’s residence for repayment of Medicaid benefits which the state paid out, even if the primary residence is otherwise protected by a homestead declaration.
While this is the law, the Secretary of State indicates: “As of the printing of this pamphlet, as long as the recipient, or the spouse of the recipient, is alive, the Commonwealth will not look to the residence for reimbursement of Medicaid benefits.” This means a homesteaded home usually should be safe, as long as one of the two married co-owners of the house is alive.
When both co-owners pass away, the state can and often will seek reimbursement from medical bills by placing a lien on the house. If both of the spouses received Medicaid, the state can make a claim to recover the total amount paid to both members of the married couple after the last surviving spouse has passed away. In other words, if a husband dies and a wife dies later, the state can try to recover Medicaid payments made to both the husband and wife once the wife has died.
Getting Help with Massachusetts Homestead Law
The Law Offices of James A. Miller, P.C. has extensive experience with helping clients to protect their assets in case they need to go into a nursing home. We also provide other asset protection assistance so you can keep your property safe from a wide variety of risks both during your lifetime and after your death.
To learn more about how an attorney can help you with homestead law and with asset protection, give us a call at 508-799-8885 or contact us online today.