If your Florida property qualifies as a homestead, state laws offer certain protections. For your property to qualify, you must have legal or beneficial title to the home on January 1 of the year, you must reside at the home as your permanent residence, and you must apply for the homestead exemption in person at the property appraiser’s office in the county where your home is located between January 1 and March 1 of the year in which you are seeking the homestead exemption.

Establishing Florida homestead status is desirable because it provides you with certain exemptions from real estate taxes and, further, it prevents a creditor that has obtained a judgment against you from placing a judgment lien on your homestead property. This creditor protection also carries over to certain heirs who might inherit your homestead after you die.

Perhaps the most confusing concept with regard to Florida homestead law are the restrictions that state law places on who you can and cannot leave your Florida homestead to when you die.

Determination of Homestead is a special procedure for homestead property which takes place during a probate proceeding. After filing a Petition to Determine Homestead, the court issues an Order Determining Homestead which distributes the homestead to the persons named in your will or, if you die without a will (intestate), the persons entitled to the property by law. If the beneficiary is your spouse or lineal descendant, the homestead property is exempt from the claims of your creditors. Any sale of the homestead must be made by the beneficiaries or heirs named in the Order.

The Constitution of the State of Florida place stringent restrictions on the persons who may receive the homestead as the result of a death. The homestead may be devised by a will if the decedent is not survived by a spouse or minor child. If there is no minor child, the homestead may be devised only to the spouse. If the homestead is not properly devised, the will is overruled and the surviving spouse owns the property for his or her lifetime, after which the lineal descendants of the decedent become the owners.

Florida homestead laws are multi-layered and complicated. If you have minor children or are considering using your second home in Florida as your primary, permanent residence, you should seek advisement from your attorney.

At Cipparone & Cipparone, we provide experienced, comprehensive legal representation in all aspects of Florida homestead protection and probate. For legal services to ensure your best interests are protected, contact us today!