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Understanding Florida Homestead

November 4, 2022 CSBB Blog

There are three separate aspects of homestead protections under Florida law. These include: asset protection, reduction(s) in property taxes, and safeguards for the surviving spouse and/or minor children of the deceased owner of a Florida homestead.

Homestead: Asset Protection

Homestead property—defined as one-half acre if located within a municipality, or 160 acres if outside of a municipality—is protected under the Florida Constitution as follows:

There shall be exempt from forced sale under process of any court, and no judgment, decree or execution shall be a lien thereon, except for the payment of taxes and assessments thereon, obligations contracted for the purchase, improvement or repair thereof, or obligations contracted for house, field or other labor performed on the realty . . . .

Accordingly, the Florida Constitution exempts one’s homestead property from most creditors.  There are exceptions, however for mortgage holders, the Internal Revenue Service, and certain lienholders.

Homestead: Reducing Property Taxes

The assessed value of a Florida homestead is confined to increase by no more than 3% per year.  It is of the utmost importance to apply for the homestead exemption following the purchase of property designed to be the primary residence of the owner.

Homestead: Safeguarding Surviving Spouses and Minor Children

The surviving spouse of a Florida domiciliary (i.e. resident) is entitled to inherit no less than a life estate in their deceased spouse’s Florida homestead. 

In lieu of the life estate, a surviving spouse is permitted to elect a one-half tenant-in-common (“TIC”) interest in decedent’s homestead. Fla. Stat. § 732.401(2).  A surviving spouse—or, with court approval the surviving spouse’s guardian or attorney-in-fact—must record the TIC election with six (6) months of the decedent’s death. Fla. Stat. § 732.401(2)(c). Once the TIC election is made it is irrevocable.

Similarly, if the Decedent died with any minor children, the minor children are entitled to the entire property unless the Decedent was married at death in which case the minor children inherit the remainder interest following the surviving spouse’s life estate, or co-own the homestead if a timely TIC election is recorded.   

For additional information on Florida’s homestead protections please contact the attorneys at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun, LLP at 561-626-2101 or toll-free at 800-226-1484.

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