The Massachusetts Homestead Exemption

Learn about the bankruptcy homestead exemption in Massachusetts.

By , Attorney · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

Most people want to know whether they can keep valuable property before filing for bankruptcy—especially a home. If you qualify to use the Massachusetts homestead exemption, you can protect some or all of the equity in your house. In this article, we explain:

  • how much the Massachusetts homestead exemption will cover, and
  • how to apply it in your bankruptcy case.

For more bankruptcy information, read Filing for Bankruptcy in Massachusetts.

Homestead Exemptions Available in a Massachusetts Bankruptcy

Massachusetts lets filers use either the federal exemption system or Massachusetts's state exemption system, so you'll have two homestead amounts to choose between. However, you can't mix exemptions from both lists, so you'll want to select the system that will protect your most important assets.

We've listed both exemption amounts below to help you make an informed choice. We've also included links to more complete federal and state exemption lists so you'll have an easier time deciding which set will work best for you.

If you're married, remember that spouses can double some exemption amounts, but not all. Find out about other filing considerations for spouses.

Federal Homestead Exemption

Massachusetts Homestead Exemption

Homestead exemption amount


$125,000 (automatic)

$500,000 (declared)

Can spouses who file a joint bankruptcy double the exemption?

$55,800 is available to spouses who co-own property.

No, but exceptions exist for the elderly and people with disabilities (more below).

Homestead exemption law

11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(1)

Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 188, §§ 1-14

Other information

Amounts will adjust on April 1, 2025.

Amounts adjust periodically

Compare other federal and state exemptions.

Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Exemptions

Property Covered by the Massachusetts Homestead Exemption

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.

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.

Here's an additional benefit: In Massachusetts, if a person dies leaving a spouse, the deceased's homestead exemption can be transferred to the surviving spouse. The spouse doesn't have to use that amount to pay the deceased's debts.

If you hold property as tenancy by entirety with your spouse: If one spouse files for bankruptcy—not both—the bankruptcy trustee might be prevented from using the property equity to pay off debts. However, this is a tricky area of law. Talk with a local bankruptcy attorney before filing to ensure that you don't lose valuable property.

Massachusetts Homestead Exemption for Elderly or Disabled People

Special rules apply to disabled and elderly homeowners in Massachusetts. Individuals are considered 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 under 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 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.

Timing Your Massachusetts Bankruptcy

You can file for bankruptcy in Massachusetts after living there for more than 180 days. However, you must live in Massachusetts much longer before using Massachusetts exemptions—at least 730 days before filing, to be exact. Otherwise, you'd use the previous state's exemptions.

But suppose you lived in multiple states during the two years before filing for bankruptcy. In that case, you'd use the exemptions of the state you lived in for most of the 180 days before the two-year period that immediately preceded your filing. (11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(A).) Learn more about filing for bankruptcy after moving to a new state.

Also, to claim the total value of the Washington homestead exemption, you must have purchased and owned the property for at least 1,215 days before the bankruptcy filing. If you can't meet this requirement, your homestead exemption is limited by federal law to $189,050 (this figure will adjust on April 1, 2025).

Learn more about this requirement, the current amount of the federal cap, and other important exceptions to homestead exemptions.

Claiming the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Homestead Exemption

In Massachusetts, the amount of your homestead exemption depends on whether it is "automatic" or "declared:"

  • 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.
  • For owners who sign and record a declaration, the homestead exemption is increased to $500,000. All homestead owners 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.

You'll list the homestead exemption you're entitled to take on Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt when completing your bankruptcy forms. You can find out about other requirements you'll need to meet in Your Home in Chapter 7 or Your Home in Chapter 13.

Finding the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Homestead Exemption Statute

You'll find Massachusetts's homestead exemption at Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 188, § § 1–14 on the Massachusettes Legislature website (look under "General Laws"). Learn about finding state statutes in Laws and Legal Research.

Need More Bankruptcy Help?

Did you know Nolo has been making the law easy for over fifty years? It's true—and we want to make sure you find what you need. Below you'll find more articles explaining how bankruptcy works. And don't forget that our bankruptcy homepage is the best place to start if you have other questions!

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Helpful Bankruptcy Sites

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We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.

Updated April 7, 2022

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