Question: I just bought a house in Tyngsborough, moving from Nashua. I heard that I need to file a document proving my homestead in Massachusetts. This is different than New Hampshire. What do I need to do?
Answer: You may have moved only a few miles, but the Massachusetts homestead procedure is light years away from New Hampshire. No longer an assumed designation, the Commonwealth’s Homestead Act requires a written declaration of homestead be recorded with the registry of deeds in your county.
Well worth the time and effort, a homestead declaration provides a homeowner with protection of up to $500,000.00 of the equity in their primary residence. If you ever lose a lawsuit or file bankruptcy, and your primary residence is subject to judicial foreclosure, the first half million of equity goes in your pocket. Of course, any mortgages or prior existing liens get paid off first. Knowing this, someone on the fence about suing you may decide against taking action
Typically, a closing attorney will prepare and record a declaration of homestead with your purchase. However, if you are unsure if this occurred call your closing attorney or go online at www.lowelldeeds.com. There you can search documents recorded with the registry of deeds. Follow the instructions and prompts provided to search documents indexed under your name.
If you did not sign and record a declaration of homestead, you may prepare one yourself by printing the document from the registry’s website. Have your signature witnessed by a notary public, and then record the document with the registry of deeds during business hours for a small fee of $35.00. The protection is well worth the cost.
Of course, if doing it yourself is not an attractive option, a real estate attorney will be able to assist you at a low cost.
Attorney James Haroutunian is a Billerica native who runs the Haroutunian Law Office at 790 Boston Road, Billerica, specializing in real estate law and estate planning. James invites questions from readers at 978-671-0711, hlawoffice.com, prioritylaw.com, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.