In bankruptcy, a homestead exemption protects equity in your home. Here, you’ll find specific information about the homestead exemption in Massachusetts.
For information about how the homestead exemption works in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, see The Homestead Exemption in Bankruptcy. For more information on exemptions, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.
Homestead Exemption Amounts in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, the amount of your homestead exemption depends on whether it is "automatic" or "declared:"
Automatic. All homeowners in Massachusetts are entitled to an "automatic homestead exemption" of $125,000. Homeowners in Massachusetts do not have to record a declaration to take advantage of the automatic homestead exemption.
Declared. For owners who sign and record a declaration, the homestead exemption is increased to $500,000. All owners of a homestead must sign a recorded declaration to take advantage of the full $500,000 exemption permitted by Massachusetts law. Otherwise, the "declared homestead exemption" amount is reduced from $500,000 based on the signing owners’ percentage interest in the property.
Massachusetts Homestead Exemption for Elderly or Disabled People
Special rules apply for disabled and elderly homeowners in Massachusetts. Individuals are considered to be disabled persons if they have mental or physical impairments that qualify them for Supplemental Security Income. Elderly persons are individuals who are at least 62 years old.
Disabled and elderly homeowners who file declarations in accordance with Massachusetts law are entitled to homestead exemptions of $500,000 each. Exemptions for disabled and elderly homeowners can be aggregated.
Massachusetts law is somewhat complicated when it comes to calculating the total exemption amount when one or more owners are elderly or disabled. Two spouses over the age of 62, for example, are entitled to a declared homestead exemption of $1,000,000. By contrast, if only one spouse is over 62 years old, and neither is disabled, the declared homestead exemption for a couple who own a residence together is $750,000.
Doubling for Married Couples
In Massachusetts, married couples filing joint bankruptcies cannot double the homestead amount, even if the spouses are living in separate residences. There may be other advantages to filing bankruptcy jointly with your spouse. To learn more check out Nolo's section on Bankruptcy Considerations for Married Couples.
The Scope of Homestead Exemptions in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, the homestead exemption covers a home that you occupy or intend to occupy as your primary personal residence. A home can be a house, a two to four unit multi-family dwelling, or a condominium, together with the land on which it is located.
The homestead exemption also applies to mobile homes, manufactured houses, and cooperative units. Owners in Massachusetts are entitled to homestead protection whether they hold their interests as joint tenants, tenants in common, tenants by the entirety, or trust beneficiaries.
Generally, sale proceeds are exempt until you acquire a new home or a year after receipt, whichever occurs first. Insurance proceeds are exempt until the earlier of: the date that repairs or reconstruction are completed or two years after receipt.
The homestead exemption in Massachusetts does not protect against efforts to collect, among other things:
- federal, state, or local taxes
- valid mortgages or pre-existing liens, or
- child or spousal support.
Can You Use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, you can elect to use either the state exemption system or the federal bankruptcy exemption system. You cannot pick and choose different exemptions from each system. You have to use all state exemptions or all federal exemptions.
The federal bankruptcy homestead exemption amount is $21,625. The exemption may be used for homes, condominiums, cooperatives, mobile homes, and burial plots. Married couples may double this exemption. You can find the federal bankruptcy homestead exemption at 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(1) and (d)(5).
(To learn more, see The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions.)
Homestead Exemption Rights After Death
In Massachusetts, the homestead exemption continues after an owner's death for the benefit of the surviving spouse and any minor children.
Finding Massachusett's Homestead Exemption Statutes
Massachusett's homestead exemption laws are set forth at Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 188, §§ 1–14. You can find Massachusetts statutes on the website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at www.malegislature.gov (look under "Massachusetts Laws").
For more information about how to find state statutes, check out Nolo's Laws and Legal Research area.