One of the top reasons for moving to Florida, aside from the year-round sunny weather and the multitude of exciting things to do, is the homestead protection afforded to Florida residents.
Article X, §4(a) of the Florida Constitution protects Florida homestead property from levy and execution by an owner’s creditors during the owner’s lifetime. Under the Florida Constitution, one hundred sixty acres of contiguous land and improvements thereon are protected if the property is located outside a municipality, or if the property is located within a municipality, one-half acre of contiguous land, upon which the exemption shall be limited to the residence of the owner or the owner’s family, is protected.
Homestead Protection Requirements
In order for you to claim homestead protection over your property the following requirements must be satisfied:
1. The property must be owned by a natural person.
2. The person claiming the exemption must be a Florida resident who establishes that he or she made, or intended to make, the real property his or her permanent residence.
3. The person claiming the exemption must establish that he or she is the owner of the property.
4. The property claimed as the homestead must satisfy the size and contiguity requirements of the constitution.
Florida Residency Requirements
Accordingly, if you are considering moving to Florida you should take certain steps to ensure that you are considered a Florida resident. In order to be considered a Florida resident you must have a residence in the state as well as the actual intent to reside in Florida permanently. Pursuant to Florida Statute section 222.17, any person that is the owner of a Florida residence can file a sworn statement with the clerk of the county in which such person resides stating that you reside in and maintain as your residence such property and intend to make the property your permanent home. If you also maintain a residence in another state, states or country, as the case may be, the sworn statement must also indicate that your place of residence in Florida constitutes your predominant and principal home and that you intend to continue it permanently as such.
Notwithstanding the filing of such a statement, you should also spend more time in your Florida residence than elsewhere and you should hold yourself out as a Florida resident in order to ensure yourself the benefits of Florida homestead protection. Courts will actually consider several factors in determining whether a person is a Florida resident, including but not limited to whether such person has received homestead tax exemptions for his or her Florida residence, whether such person maintains a driver’s license in Florida only and whether such person is a registered voter in Florida.
The determination as to whether a person is a Florida resident and whether his or her Florida residence is his or her primary residence will be determined using a facts and circumstances analysis. Accordingly, in order for you to strengthen your argument for permanent Florida residency, you should, pursuant to Florida Statute Section 222.17, file a sworn statement with the clerk of the county in which your Florida home is located and, to the extent possible, you should take steps to increase your Florida contacts in comparison to any contacts you may have in another state or country.
If you are considering moving to Florida and would like to afford yourself of the homestead protections provided for under the Florida constitution, please contact us.