Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Florida Homestead - Three Contexts

The concept of a Florida "homestead" arises in three different contexts:
  1. Taxation exemption per Art. VII, Section 6, Fla. Constit.
  2. Forced sale exemption before and at death - per Art. X, Section 4(a)-(b), Fla. Const. and 
  3. Restrictions on devise and alienation, Art. X, Section 4(c), Fla. Const.
The definition of "homestead" property for Article VII, section 6 purposes (taxation) is not the same as Article X, section 4 (forced sale and devise and alienation).

Neither the Florida Legislature nor the Florida Constitution provide a definition of what is homestead property for purposes of Art. X, Section 4 (a)(forced sale and devise and alienation). Florida courts generally hold that the following requirements must be satisfied for property to be determined as homestead property:

  • the property must be owned by a "natural person"
  • the person claiming the exemption must be a Florida resident who establishes that he intends to make the real property his permanent residence
  • the person claiming the exemption must establish that he is the owner of the property and 
  • the property claimed as the homestead must satisfy the size and contiguity requirements of the constitution. 

The Florida Constitution does not limit the types of estates that are eligible for homestead status. Therefore, the exemption may generally attach to any estate in land whether it is a freehold or lesser estate. A life estate has been found to be among the property interests eligible for homestead status. Florida court have held that real property held in trust can be impressed with the character of homestead, including revocable and irrevocable trusts.