Land Management: Homestead Exemption

MOTHER EARTH NEWS answers readers' questions regarding homestead exemption laws, easement rights, land management and property assessments.

| February/March 1998

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    Rural property owners should stay informed about local land laws to avoid sticky situations when building on or clearing land. 
  • 166-022-01i1
    Wrestling with neighbors about easement rights can be frustrating, but try to keep things civil and come to a mutual agreement. 

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Rules and regulations regarding land management, homestead exemptions, easement rights and property assessments can be confusing and frustrating. The staff at MOTHER EARTH NEWS encourages you to take advantage of local resources and communicate with your neighbors for a happy neighborhood and comfortable home. 

Homestead Exemption

 Q. My husband has asked me to research the law to find out how to "homestead" our house. He says this is a procedure where you make your home safe from seizure as part of your assets, as in a court judgment, for example. In searching land law websites and even the law library I found nothing under this heading. Have you heard of this? Is it called by another name? Do you know anything about it? Where I can get information about it? 

—Jean Damon
McKinleyville, CA  

A. It is no wonder you are having difficulty obtaining information on the homestead exemption. California does not have a legislative phone number for citizen information on civil laws, at least that I could find.

The homestead exemption was enacted by many states to protect the family home against being sold by creditors. State land laws differ, but all essentially set a monetary amount that a family will retain after the home is sold to repay debt. Naturally, if the debt is less than the homestead exemption the creditor probably can't force the sale of the home. Most states limit this action to unsecured creditors; secured creditors, like mortgage holders, still have rights to the property as provided for by law. In some states the homestead must be filed with the county. Elsewhere it is an automatic exemption. Every few years most legislatures raise the homestead exemption amount to reflect current economic conditions.

The homestead exemption laws are complicated. You may contact the California Association of Realtors to ask their legal department for information on the subject. Go into the legal section, where there will be questions and answers regarding the homestead exemption. Your own legislator's office may be able to provide you with copies of the civil law for the homestead exemption. Good luck.

sherry majors
12/15/2010 2:29:24 PM

Hi I am trying to get a Declaration of Homestead in Juneau Cty Wi. I called the Register of DEEDS, THE COUNTY CLERK, BUT THEY NEVER HEARD OF THIS, How do I go about finding out how to declare this in Wisconsin? Is there some place to get the forms from? Thank you SHERRY MAJORS

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