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Massachusetts residents have protections in their primary residence against claims resulting from many types of lawsuits or from claims by unsecured creditors (a creditor that does not require a borrower to sign a mortgage in connection with the loan). These rights are referred to as “homestead rights.” Homestead rights are governed by Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 188. There is automatic homestead protection in the amount of $125,000 in the equity of a home against such claims. Normally, automatic provision covers only a small portion of the current equity (and future equity) in the residence. To increase protection from $125.000 to $500,000, Massachusetts homeowners must record a “Declaration of Homestead” in the registry of deeds in the county in which the residence is located.

There are additional benefits available to Massachusetts residents who are 62-years-of-age or order and for Massachusetts residences who live with a recognized disability.

Homeowners can only have one primary residence (single family home, condominium unit or trailer park home). Any property that is used as investment property or as a second home is not eligible for homestead protection.

Here are a few examples of protections:

  • If a parent who declares the homestead dies, the law protects the family’s right to use, occupy and enjoy the home.
  • Protections are extended to spouses who do not co-own the residence and to minor children.
  • Protection extends automatically to a new spouse where an unmarried person declared a homestead and later marries.
  • Divorcing spouses are protected against the loss of homestead through termination or divorce.
  • Neither divorce nor remarriage will affect the homestead of the spouse who still uses the home as his or her primary residence.
  • Upon sale of the residence, proceeds are protected up to either (i) one year after the date of the sale or (ii) the date on which the seller purchases a new primary residence, whichever is earlier.

Homestead protections are not applicable to or may be superseded by:

  • unpaid federal, state and municipal taxes and liens.
  • liens of secured creditors.
  • orders for the payment of alimony and/or child support.
  • court-ordered awards for damages resulting from a homeowner’s intentional or negligent actions, such as fraud or violent assault.
  • liens that pre-date the creation of the homestead.

For more information, you can contact us or visit The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s website.