Putting the home in Homestead

As many of you probably know, I represent parties in transactions regarding residential properties. I love working with buyer and sellers, starting with Purchase and Sales, and through closing. I happily work with lenders and real estate agents to make sure that the deal not only happens, but that my client is properly protected.
As part of the closing process, I always offer to provide a Homestead for buyers. Most people do not know a lot about Declarations of Homestead, sometimes not even knowing if they have one on their current house; in order to help buyers better understand the benefits of having one, I always provide the information below.
It is never too late to file a Homestead, even if you have lived in your house for 20 years. If you are not sure if have one, I am happy to look it up for you.

Homestead protection is available for owner occupied, residential one to four family homes, condominium unit, operative apartments and for manufactured homes, which in each case serves as the homeowner’s principal residence. Co-owners of a home ‘share’ the exemption amount.

A homestead estate exempts a certain amount of the equity of a home from attachment, seizure, execution on judgment, levy, and sale for the unsecured debts of the owner of the home, except for the following:
• Federal, state, and local taxes, assessments, claims, and liens;
• Liens recorded prior to creation of the estate;
• Mortgages;
• Orders of the probate court for support;
• A levy or sale for ground rents (where the homeowner does not own the land); and
• An execution from a court to enforce a judgment based upon fraud, mistake, duress, undue influence or lack of capacity.

Under the Act, the homeowner’s equity in the home is protected for up to one year after the sale of the home, and, if the home has suffered a casualty that results in the payment of insurance proceeds, then the insurance proceeds are protected for up to two years, in order to allow the homeowner to acquire a homestead in a new (or reconstructed) home.

AUTOMATIC HOMESTEAD: All homeowners are entitled to automatic homestead protection of up to $125,000 of the equity in their homes. You do not need to do anything to benefit of this protection.

DECLARED HOMESTEAD: By making a written declaration of homestead, recorded in the Registry of Deeds, a homeowner’s homestead protection is increased to $500,000.

Some other benefits of declaring a homestead include:
a. A non-owner spouse who lives with the owner has the benefit of the homestead (until terminated in writing);
b. A declared homestead cannot be subordinated to an unsecured debt;
c. If an unmarried owner declares a homestead and marries thereafter, the declaration will automatically benefit the owner’s spouse upon marriage; similarly, a divorce and/or remarriage will not affect the homestead of the spouse who remains in the home as his/ her principal residence.
d. A trustee of property held in trust can declare homestead for the beneficiaries of the trust who occupy the home as their principal residence;
e. Elderly (age 62 or older) and disabled persons who declare homestead are each entitled to separate exemption of up to $500,000, which is personal and not shared with any other co-owners of the home.


Who should YOU vote for in 2016?

The sudden death of Antonin Scalia has renewed an important and often overlooked conversation in America about the process of replacing a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the debate over whether the current President of the United States (“POTUS”) or his successor will nominate the inheritor of Scalia’s seat has greatly overshadowed his accomplishments.

Regardless of whether you agreed with Scalia, he demanded respect. He displayed a quick whit and candor in his legal opinions. He challenged attorneys to answer difficult questions, even before they were done presenting their cases. He demonstrated an ability to build and maintain a close friendship with someone who was his polar opposite politically. Even as a member of the Supreme Court bar, I never had an opportunity to meet him; however, those who had the pleasure have told me that he made you feel instantly comfortable and important, even though he was one of the most intimidating figures in modern history.

It is likely that the current POTUS will be the one to nominate Scalia’s successor. Even if the current POTUS nominates the heir to the Scalia seat, there are three (3) spots which are likely to be open within the next few years due to the age of the current justices. Hopefully, who ever is nominated in the future focuses on process, not agenda; however, it is nearly impossible to eliminate political affiliation and thought process. Therefore, it is SO important to consider the power of POTUS nomination when you go to vote. In the meantime, please enjoy this article that Time magazine recently posted about the process of replacement:

How the Next Supreme Court Justice Will Be Chosen


From the “REALLY?” File

Not everyone feels merry or bright during the holidays.For everyone who needs a laugh and those who just like to, I offer the following article which will, hopefully, make you smile: The Strangest 50 State Laws That Still Exist.


My personal favorite is Georgia; what’s yours?

Happy Holidays!

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Giving Thanks!

2015 has been a landmark year of growth for my practice. As we end this month focused on giving thanks, I want to say  “Thank You” to some special people.

  • To my clients, past, present, and future:  Working together has been my pleasure. I hope that working together has helped you to move forward in your life in a positive way, whether it be as newly single, recently married, buying or selling your home, or protecting your assets for your family;
  • To my friends, family, and colleagues that have referred cases to me: I appreciate your trust and confidence in me;
  • To my colleagues who are opposing counsel: I enjoy a good sparing session, but especially when it is with someone who makes an argument with integrity;
  • To my colleagues who allow me to brainstorm with them: A solo practitioner without a sounding board would not be nearly as effective;
  • To my friends and colleagues in real estate (lenders, agents, everyone at my Title company,and other professionals): I am so excited to keeping building our relationship and providing amazing service to our clients;
  • To my friend, Erin Sweeney, for designing a new website for me. I can’t wait to launch it soon and for everyone to see her GORGEOUS work;
  • To the readers of this newsletter: I appreciate that you take the time to open and read what I’ve written. Your feedback is so helpful and keeps me motivated; and
  • To a good friend and colleague that I want to call out by name, but who would be mortified if I did: THANK YOU for your inspiration and support this year. From our first conversation at school to Box Seats to late phone calls and emails, your graciousness and knowledge is much appreciated.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

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The Column That I Didn’t Expect to Write

People who know me know well are going to think it is hilarious that I am writing this newsletter. I’m generally not a big fan of reality television, with the only exception being Shark Tank, which I loved even before a friend was on it last year, but even moreso since. However, sometimes reality personalities become part of mainstream news and discussion.

Lamar Odom, former NBA player and reality personality, has been all over the news lately. I know very little about him or his family, but I have been asked several times, within the last week, to explain how divorce papers can be signed, yet they are not divorced and his Wife can still make health care decisions on his behalf. To the best of my knowledge, California has jurisdiction over their marriage. I am not a California attorney.

Massachusetts requires several events to occur prior to granting a divorce. A Complaint for Divorce initiates the process; it is a document that is filed with the Court, either by one party or jointly.

Parties must exchange financial information. Both spouses present a financial statement, which summarizes expenses, assets, income, and liability. They also provide three (3) years of taxes, investments, and bank statements. Often the information is the same for both spouses, but not always. Sometimes, more information is requested, especially if one spouse is self employed.

Once financial disclosures have been made, the bulk of negotiations begin. Parties can often come to an agreement about how to divide marital assets and liabilities, whether alimony is necessary, as well as the care and custody of minor children. If the parties cannot agree on one or all issues, court intervention is available. If the parties can agree on the issues, a Separation Agreement is created and signed by both spouses.

My limited understanding is that the Kardashian-Odom process is or was at this point in the process. For that reason, they are still married and marital privileges, such as decision making power, are still in effect.

Parties need to actually present their Separation Agreement to the Court prior to obtaining a divorce. A judge will review the document for fairness and may ask the parties some questions. If the judge determines the document to be fair and entered into without coercion or pressure, a Judgment of Divorce is ordered. Most people feel as though they are divorced at this point, but they are not until a Judgment of Divorce Nisi is entered.

Massachusetts has a Nisi period which lasts for 90 days. The intent of the statute is to allow the parties to cool off and reconsider reconciliation. In most cases, this period is unremarkable and the parties become divorced.

North Attleboro Plainville Wrentham Bristol Norfolk Real estate child support custody divorce real estate homestead title insurance Attleboro lawyer legal law office modification contempt estate plan planning will power of attorney old republic title company living will Norton Franklin Bellingham Canton Easton Marin School Association Representative Town Meeting Junior League of Boston Contractor Disputes Personal Injury Landlord Tenant  Deed paternity South Attleboro Cub Scout pack 65