A homestead declaration is a legal document that can enable you, as a property owner, to protect your home from creditors during times of financial hardship. Homestead rights are in place in the following 27 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. You do not need a lawyer to file a declaration of homestead.
How to File
If you live in one of the states that recognizes the homestead declaration, it is worth taking the time to fill in the documentation to protect your home. You can buy the appropriate form from a stationary office or from your local county website. Once you have filled in all of the necessary information, get it notarized. This means you must sign it in the presence of a notary public. You will usually find one in a lawyer's office or bank. When the form has been notarized, file the document with the county recorder in the county of the property's location. You may be charged a small fee for the filing process.
When to File
The best time to file a homestead declaration is as soon as you buy your home. This will prevent you having financial and legal battles later after something unforeseen such as the death of a family member or sudden loss of income. A homestead protects the equity in your home up to $550,000 as long as it has been filed with the County Recorder before proceedings are carried out to make you sell your home to meet the requirements of a judgment.
Who Can File
Any property owner, (either single or married), can file a homestead declaration. There are certain regulations on the types of properties that can be homesteaded. The property must be land with an inhabited house and other buildings; a mobile home, even if the land on which it sits is not also owned by the home owner; a condominium; land with a free title; a houseboat; or a motor home.