Does the Massachusetts Homestead Law Provide Additional Protection for Disabled or Elderly Homeowners?

Yes, in some circumstances, the Massachusetts Homestead Law M.G.L. c.188, allows “stacking” exemptions together to reach $1 million.

  • Stacking” can be available.
  • Marital status of co-owners is disregarded.
  • The correct type of homestead exemptions must be on file, or stacking is unavailable.

Examples and Explanations

  1. John Smith, 65, and Jane Smith, 65, are a married couple. They own a home together in Massachusetts, and they both recorded elderly person’s declarations of homestead at the registry of deeds. What is their homestead exemption? Instead of $500,000, it is $1,000,000 (a million dollars). This is because “stacking is available for the elderly or disabled person’s homestead…Thus, two owners, both elderly, are able to stack the exemption so that they would together obtain $1 million worth of protection.”1 Interestingly, the availability of “stacking” would probably not be obvious or clear to a non-lawyer reading the definitions section of M.G.L. c.188 §1: “[E]ach person who owns a home who is benefited by an estate of homestead declaration pursuant to section 2 shall be entitled to the declared homestead exemption without reduction, proration or allocation among owners of the home…” That is why Professor Perlin’s explanation is helpful for understanding this feature of the Massachusetts Homestead Law. *******************
  2. Jane Adams 63, and Sam Jones, 50 (disabled) are not married. Jane has an elderly person’s declaration of homestead and John has a disabled persons declaration of homestead. What is their homestead exemption? Because they each have an elderly or disabled person’s declaration of homestead, these co-owners can combine their homestead exemption to $1 million. The law specifically states that this analysis is “regardless of marital status.” M.G.L. c.188. *************************
  3. Fred Smith, 65, and Jane Smith, 65 live together in a Massachusetts home they own together. When Fred was 60, he recorded a homestead exemption. When Jane was 63, she recorded an elderly person’s declaration of homestead. Do they have a combined homestead exemption of $1 million? No. Even though Fred is over 65 (and is thus “elderly”) they cannot stack the exemption because Fred does not have an elderly or disabled person’s homestead on file. This is important because people cannot assume that the law will automatically convert their previously filed homestead exemption into an elderly person’s exemption when they reach 62 – just as it will not automatically transform into a disabled person’s exemption if they become disabled.
  1. Professor Marc G. Perlin, Esq., Elder and Disability Law in Massachusetts, Homestead Protection, 1st Edition, 2023 MCLE, Inc., page 22-11 ↩︎