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47. Homestead


Homestead laws are designed to protect small individual property owners, such as homeowners, from the ever-changing economic climate of the United States. Often when the economy changes, small property owners are unable to meet the demands of their creditors. Homestead laws allow an individual to register a portion of his real and personal property as homestead, thereby making that portion of the individuals estate off-limits to most creditors. The idea behind these homestead laws is the preservation of the family farm, home, or other assets in the face of severe economic conditions.

The items and amounts of money that can be set aside as a homestead are varied. The rules governing which property can be registered as homestead property seem to adhere to regional patterns. Real property that may be subject to the homestead exemptions vary in value from a $300 exemption from judgments in Pennsylvania to a $500,000 exemption for persons over age sixty-two in Massachusetts. They vary in character from the District of Columbias allowable homestead of $1,625 worth of tools, to Colorados unlimited acreage or Texass 200 acres. In each case, the property that may be homesteaded is designed to perpetuate the familys estate and improve its chances for survival in hard times.


The homestead is a back-up and a type of insurance against unexpected catastrophe; it will not ordinarily protect you from a bad business deal or from ordinary bankruptcy. Nonetheless, because an unscrupulous person could manipulate the homestead protections as a shield from living up to his legal obligations, there is much case law on homesteads. Indeed, ordinary business and commercial creditors ordinarily may penetrate property set aside as homestead.

Table 47: Homestead
StateCode SectionMaximum Value Of PropertyMaximum Acreage (Urban)Maximum Acreage (Rural)
ALABAMA§6-10-2; Const. Art. X, §205Const.: $2,000; Stat.: $5,000Const.: Lot Stat.: Lot or trackConst.: 80 acres; Stat.: 160 acres
ARKANSAS16-66-210; Const. Art. IX, §4, §5$2,500. All homesteads less than $1,000 assessed valuation are exempt from all state taxes referred to in art. XVI, §18 of Ark. Constitution. If homesteads value exceeds $1,000, exemption shall apply to first $1,000 of valuation (Const. amend. XXII §1).1 acre but not less than ¼ acreCannot exceed 160 acres, will not be reduced to less than 80 acres.
CALIFORNIACiv. Proc. §704.710, et seq. For money judgments$150,000 if either spouse is over 65 or disabled and unable to engage in substantial employment; $150,000 if person is 55 or older with gross income of not more than $15,000 or if married not more than $20,000 and sale is involuntary; $75,000 if debtor or spouse resides in house with at least one member of the family with no interest in the homestead; $50,000 for all others  
COLORADO38-41-201$45,000No limits to acreageNo limits to acreage
CONNECTICUT12-81(21)$10,000 if disabled veteran; only $5,000 exemption if loss the use of one arm or one leg; $3,000 maximum income if unmarried and over 65; $5,000 maximum income if married and over 65; $6,000 maximum income for all others--combined adjusted gross income and tax exempt interest  
DELAWARETit. 10 §4902 (personal property); Tit. 22 §1002$75 trade, business in New Castle, Sussex County; $50 trade, business in Kent County; homestead exemption for persons 65 and older to be determined by local ordinance  
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA15-501 (personal property)$2,575 automobile interest, household items up to $8,625, family pictures not in excess of $400, tools of the trade up to $1,625  
FLORIDA§196.031; Const. Art. X, §4$10,000 if person is over 65; $9,500 if totally disabled and is a permanent resident for 5 consecutive years prior to claim; $25,000 for taxes levied by governing bodies of school districts; $5,000 for all others½ acre160 acres
StateCode SectionMaximum Value Of PropertyMaximum Acreage (Urban)Maximum Acreage (Rural)
HAWAII651-92$30,000 if head of family or 65 years old; $20,000 for all others  
IDAHO55-1001, 1003Lesser of $100,000 or total net value of lands, mobile home, or improvements. Net value means market value minus all liens and encumbrances.  
ILLINOIS735 ILCS 5/12-901$15,000, if 2 or more own property, value of each proportional exemption cant exceed a total of $30,000  
INDIANA34-55-10-2$15,000 for residential; $8,000 for other real estate or tangible personal property; $300 for intangible personal property  
IOWA561.1, et seq. $500½ acre40 acres
KANSAS60-2301, 2304$1,000 in ornaments, $20,000 in transportation, $7,500 in trade tools1 acre160 acres
KENTUCKY427.010, .080$5,000 plus $3,000 in any personal property  
LOUISIANAConst. Art. VII, §20$7,500160 acres160 acres
MAINETit. 14 §4422Aggregate interest not to exceed $35,000 (or $70,000 if have minor dependents) including exemptions for car, clothing, furniture, jewelry, and tools of the trade. $70,000 if debtor or dependent is either 60 or older, disabled, or unable to engage in gainful employment  
MARYLANDCts. & Jud. Proc. §11-504$6,000 plus an additional $5,000 in a Title 11 bankruptcy in value, in real property, or personal property  
MASSACHUSETTSCh. 188 §1, 1A$500,000  
MICHIGAN600.6023$3,500 realty, $1,000 trade toolsLot40 acres
MINNESOTA510.01, et seq. $200,000, or if primarily agricultural, $500,000½ acre160 acres
MISSISSIPPI85-3-21$75,000160 acres160 acres
MONTANA70-32-101, 104$100,000  
NEBRASKA77-3502 (taxation); 40-101 (judgments)$12,5001 acre; 2 lots160 acres
NEW HAMPSHIRE480: 1$100,000  
StateCode SectionMaximum Value Of PropertyMaximum Acreage (Urban)Maximum Acreage (Rural)
NEW JERSEY54: 4-8.57, et seq. ; 2A: 17-19 personal property$1,000 personal property; Homeowner, $600 min. rebate if income is less than $125,000; min. is $500 if income is between $125,000 and $200,000 Renter, $150 if income does not exceed $100,000  
NEW MEXICO42-10-1, 9, 10$30,000 or in lieu thereof, $2,000 in any property; $500 for personal property  
NEW YORKCiv. Prac. L. & R. §5206$50,000  
NORTH CAROLINAConst. Art. X, §2$1,000  
NORTH DAKOTA47-18-01$80,000  
OKLAHOMATit. 31 §2 1 acre160 acres
OREGON18.395, 18.402$30,000 or $39,600 if more than one debtor is subject to liability1 block160 acres
PENNSYLVANIATit. 42 §8123; Tit. 53 §6926.1303 et seq. $300 monetary exemption from judgment only; for senior citizens, a formula based on a sliding scale of income up to $15,000  
RHODE ISLAND9-26-4, 4.1$1,200 for tools, $8,600 for furniture, $300 for books, $10,000 for motor vehicles; $300,000 in real property  
SOUTH CAROLINA15-41-30$50,000 up to a maximum of $100,000 if there are multiple exemptions on same living unit; various kinds of personal property  
SOUTH DAKOTA43-31-4 1 acre; mineral lands: 1 acre160 acres; mineral lands: 40 acres placer claim; 5 acres lode mining
TENNESSEE26-2-301$5,000 or $7,500 if more than one debtor is subject to liability; $12,500 up to $25,000 if 62 yrs. old  
TEXASConst. Art. XVI, §51 10 acres200 acres
UTAH78-23-3$5,000 if property is not primary personal residence, $20,000 if property is primary personal residence  
VERMONTTit. 27 §101$75,000  
VIRGINIA34-4$5,000 plus if support dependent, then $500 for each dependent  
WASHINGTON6.13.010, 030Choice of $40,000 in real property or $15,000 in personal property  
WEST VIRGINIA§38-9-1; Const. Art. VI, §48$5,000 in real property and $1,000 in personal property  
StateCode SectionMaximum Value Of PropertyMaximum Acreage (Urban)Maximum Acreage (Rural)
WISCONSIN815.20; 990.01 (14)$40,000Not less than ¼ acre or more than 40 acresSame as urban
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The dwelling house and its adjoining land where a family resides. Technically, and pursuant to the modern homestead exemption laws, an artificial estate in land, created to protect the possession and enjoyment of the owner against the claims of creditors by preventing the sale of the property for payment of the owner's debts so long as the land is occupied as a home.

Laws exempting the homestead from liability for debts of the owner are strictly of U.S. origin. Under the English common law, a homestead right, a personal right to the peaceful, beneficial, and uninterrupted use of the home property free from the claims of creditors, did not exist. Homestead rights exist only through the constitutional and statutory provisions that create them. Nearly every state has enacted such provisions. The earliest ones were enacted in 1839 in the Republic of Texas.

Homestead exemption statutes have been passed to achieve the public policy objective of providing lodgings where the family can peacefully reside irrespective of financial adversities. These laws are predicated on the theory that preservation of the homestead is of greater significance than the payment of debts.

Property tax exemptions, for all or part of the tax, are also available in some states for homesteaded property. Statutory requirements prescribe what must be done to establish a homestead.

A probate homestead is one that the court sets apart out of the estate property for the use of a surviving spouse and the minor children or out of the real estate belonging to the deceased.

A homestead corporation is an enterprise organized for the purpose of acquiring lands in large tracts; paying off encumbrances, charges attached to and binding real property; improving and subdividing tracts into homestead lots or parcels; and distributing them among the shareholders and for the accumulation of a fund for such purposes.

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home·stead / ˈhōmˌsted/ • n. 1. a house, esp. a farmhouse, and outbuildings. 2. Law a person's or family's residence, which comprises the land, house, and outbuildings, and in most states is exempt from forced sale for collection of debt. 3. hist. (as provided by the federal Homestead Act of 1862) an area of public land in the West (usually 160 acres) granted to any U.S. citizen willing to settle on and farm the land for at least five years. 4. (in southern Africa) a hut or cluster of huts occupied by one family or clan, standing alone or as part of a traditional African village. DERIVATIVES: home·stead·er n.

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Home·stead / ˈhōmˌsted/ an agricultural and suburban city in southeastern Florida, southwest of Miami; pop. 28,866.