Homestead in Florida has several meanings. The best-known benefit of homestead is the real property tax exemption.
The tax office regularly monitors homestead exemptions. If the exemption is not valid, it will remove the exemption, and issue fines and liens, even for prior years. If a person moves in with family or moves into a long-term care facility without intent to abandon the homestead, the exemption can be retained, but it is vital to notify the tax office and monitor it to be sure the tax exemption is not eliminated. Early each year, a card is sent regarding the exemption. If mail is forwarded, the card is returned to the tax office, and the exemption is removed. There are several forms and articles on the Volusia County property appraiser’s website that offer useful information.
Another unique feature of homestead is the constitutional provision protecting homestead for spouses of a living homeowner. This law prohibits an owner of homestead property from transferring or mortgaging homestead property without joinder by the other spouse who is not an owner. Another benefit of homestead in Florida is protection from general creditors.
The most complicated use of the word involves restrictions and protections that arise when a married homeowner dies, and the surviving spouse is not a co-owner of the homestead. The Florida Constitution provides that if a decedent validly devises homestead property, or if the law passes homestead property by operation of law, to heirs at law (which means family members of any level), the property passes directly to those beneficiaries free of the claims of creditors of the deceased owner.
In that regard, the Florida constitution and statutes also provide that if a decedent leaves a spouse or minor child, the decedent cannot leave the home to anybody by will or trust. If there is no minor child, the decedent can leave the property to the surviving spouse, but if he or she has not done so, the property passes automatically to the spouse for life, and to the decedent’s children after the spouse dies.
Attorney Michael A. Pyle, of Pyle, Dellinger & Duz, PLLC, 1655 North Clyde Morris Blvd., Suite 1, Daytona Beach, Florida, 32117 Telephone: 386.615.9007. E-mail: email@example.com or website: www. pylelegal.com