HOMESTEAD by keara


									                 HOMESTEAD - FLORIDA

The intention of the Legislature and the people of the State of Florida has always
been to protect the Homestead for the benefit of the family during the lifetime of
the sole owner of the homestead. Before the 1985 Constitutional Amendment,
the sole owner had to be the head of a household. After the Amendment the
exemption is in favor of any natural person. This protection is from forced sale for
debts and improper conveyances without joinder of spouse; and to protect the
homestead in favor of the surviving spouse or minor child of the sole owner after
the sole owner dies.

The courts have told us that homestead "character" is not determined solely by
the record title but also by the use of the property and the intention of the party in
title as to the use of the property.


Article X, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution provides:

        (a)     There shall be exempt from forced sale under process of any court,
and no judgment, decree or execution shall be a lien thereon, except for the
payment of taxes and assessments thereon, obligations contracted for the
purchase, improvement or repair thereof, or obligations contracted for house,
field or other labor performed on the realty, the following property owned by the
head of a family (individual per 1984 Constitutional Amendment, effective
January 8, 1985):

(1)    A homestead, if located outside a municipality, to the extent of 160 acres
of contiguous land and improvements thereon, which shall not be reduced
without the owner's consent by reason of subsequent inclusion in the
municipality; or if located within a municipality, to the extent of one-half acre of
contiguous land, upon which the exemption shall be limited to the residence of
the owner or his family;

(2)      personal property to the value of $1,000.00.

         (b)     These exemptions shall inure to the surviving spouse or heirs of the

       (c)   The homestead shall not be subject to devise if the owner is
survived by spouse or minor child, except the homestead may be devised to the
owner's spouse if there be no minor child. The owner of homestead real estate,
joined by the spouse if married, may alienate the homestead by mortgage, sale,
or gift and, if married, may by deed, transfer the title to an estate by the entirety
with the spouse. If the owner or spouse is incompetent, the method of alienation
or encumbrance shall be as provided by law.

Florida Statute 732.401 entitled "Descent of Homestead" provides:

(1)     If not devised as permitted by law and the Florida Constitutional, the
homestead shall descend in the same manner as other intestate property; but if
the decedent is survived by a spouse and lineal descendants, the surviving
spouse shall take a life estate in the homestead with a vested remainder to the
lineal descendants in being at the time of the decedent's death.

(2)    If the decedent was domiciled in Florida and resided on the real property
that the decedent and surviving spouse owned as tenants by the entirety, the real
property shall not be homestead property.

Florida Statute 732.4015 entitled "Devise of Homestead":

      As provided by the Florida Constitution, the homestead shall not be
subject to devise if the owner is survived by a spouse or minor child, except that
the homestead may be devised to the owner's spouse if there if no minor child.

(1)   As provided by the Florida Constitution, the homestead shall not be
subject to devise if the owner is survived by a spouse or minor child, except that
the homestead may be devised to the owner's spouse if there is no minor child.

(2)    For the purposes of subsection (1), the term:

        (a)    "Owner" includes the settlor of a trust evidenced by a written
instrument in existence at the time of the settlor's death pursuant to which the
settlor retained the right either alone or in conjunction with any other person to
amend or revoke the trust at any time before his death.

       (b)    "Devise" includes a disposition by trust of that portion of the trust
estate which, if titled in the name of the settlor of the trust, would be the settlor's

Florida Statute 733.607 entitled "Possession of the Estate":

      Except as otherwise provided by a decedent's will, every personal
representative has a right to, and shall take possession or control of, the
decedent's property, EXCEPT the homestead . . .
Florida Statute 733.608 entitled "General Power of the Personal Representative":

      All real and personal property of the decedent, EXCEPT THE
HOMESTEAD, within the State . . . shall be assets in the hands of the personal

(1)    For the payment of devises, debts, family allowance, estate and
inheritance taxes, claims, charges and expenses of the administration,

(2)    To enforce contribution and equalize advancement,

(3)    For distribution.

Florida Statute 732.108 entitled "Adopted Persons and Persons Born out of
Wedlock" provides:

(1)     For the purpose of intestate succession by or from an adopted person, the
adopted person is a lineal descendant of the adopting parent and is one of the
natural kindred of all members of the adopting parent's family, and he is not a
lineal descendant of his natural parents, nor is he one of the kindred of any
member of his natural parent's family or any prior adoptive parent's family, except

       (a)    Adoption of a child by the spouse of a natural parent has not effect
on the relationship between the child and the natural parent or the natural
parent's family.

       (b)    Adoption of a child by a natural parent's spouse who married the
natural parent after the death of the other natural parent has no effect on the
relationship between the child and the family of the deceased natural parent.

      (c)     Adoption of a child by a close relative, as defined in s. 63.172(2),
has no effect on the relationship between the child and the families of the
deceased natural parents.

(2)     For the purposes of intestate succession in cases not covered by
subsection (1), a person born out of wedlock is a lineal descendant of his mother
and is one of the natural kindred of all members of the mother's family. The
person is also a lineal descendant of his father and is one of the natural kindred
of all members of the father's family, if:
        (a)    The natural parents participated in a marriage ceremony before or
after the birth of the person born out of wedlock, even though the attempted
marriage is void.

       (b)     The paternity of the father is established by an adjudication before
or after the death of the father.

       (c)    The paternity of the father is acknowledged in writing by the father.

Florida Statutes 63.172 defines close relatives as being the child's brother, sister,
grandparent, aunt or uncle.

                                THE AMENDMENT

The January 8, 1985 Constitutional Amendment to Article X, Section 4, of the
Florida Constitution substituted the words "natural person" for that of "owned by
head of a family". The change in wording was made to Section 4(a) dealing with
the situation where the homestead could be subject to a forced sale. Does this
change have an effect on Article X, Section 4(c) relating to the devise or passage
of title of homestead property?

The 1982 decision of the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Holden v. In Re
Estate of Gardner, 420 So.2d 1082 (Fla. 1982) answers the question in the
affirmative. While this case was decided prior to the 1983 Amendment it has
been cited as applying to the current situation. The court said:

       "It is important to read Section 4 in its entirety . . .

        We believe that this refers to homestead as it is otherwise used in Section
4. To adopt the construction suggested by the petitioner would create two distinct
definitions of homestead; one definition under subparagraph (a) and (b) of
subsection 4 and another definition under paragraph (c) concerning the devise of


Florida Statute 733.607 and 733.608 as set forth above provide that the
homestead is not part of the administration of the estate. The statutes follow
earlier case law interpreting the Constitution on this point. See In Re Noble's
Estate, 73 So.2d 873 (Fla. 1954) and secondly, Spitzer v. Branning, 184 So. 770
(Fla. 1938).


In City National Bank of Florida v. Tescher, 578 So.2d 701 (Fla. 1991)
case, the court determined that where homestead property was subject to claims
against the estate, the decedent was not survived by spouse or minor child and
the property was devised to persons who were not heirs, that the homestead
could then be validly conveyed by the personal representative. The rationale
appears to be that since creditors could reach the homestead property to satisfy
claims, by selling the property, the personal representative would hold to the
proceeds for that purpose before any distribution to the devisees. Title Standard
18.10 has been adopted following this rationale. ACCORDINGLY, CHICAGO

The court need not decide whether the property was homestead or not because
even if it was homestead, under this rational title could be conveyed by the
personal representative so long as there were no surviving spouse or minor child.


Public Health of Dade County v. Lopez, 531 So.2d 946 (Fla. 1988) decided by
The Supreme Court determined that the homestead exemption formerly only
enjoyed by the head of the family can now be enjoyed by any natural person and
where there is no will the homestead descends directly to the spouse or lineal
descendants free of creditors claims. Then in In Re Estate of Hill, 552 So.2d
1133 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1989) an exception appears to be created.

Here the homestead was devised to a stepdaughter for life, who at time of death
was not a minor. The decedent was also survived by an adult son. The son filed
a petition to set aside the devise of the condominium unit. Holding that since the
decedent was not survived by a spouse or minor child, the devise was proper,
BUT was subject to the claims of creditors, the court said "there is a real and
substantial difference between an 'heir' and a 'devisee'". Heirs, under s.
731.201(18), Florida Statutes 1987, are those persons who are entitled under the
statutes of intestate succession to the property of a decedent. Devisees, on the
other hand are those persons designated by will to receive real or personal
property. Article 4(b) of the Constitution states "these exemptions shall inure to
the surviving spouse or heirs of the owner". The appellate court determined that
the devisees would take title to the homestead but, the title would be subject to
creditors claims.

The Third District Court of Appeals decided the case of Bartelt v. Bartelt, 579
So.2d 282 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1991) where the decedent's creditors had claims
against the estate which greatly exceeded the value of all of the decedent's
assets. The primary asset the decedent had at time of death was his homestead
property. The decedent was survived by two adult children, one of whom was the
residuary devisee. The court was asked to determine whether the homestead
property was subject to the claims against the estate where the will devised
property to one of the children who was an "heir". The court stated "the test is not
how title was devolved, but rather to whom it passed. Our holding is controlled by
the decision of the Florida Supreme Court in Public Health Trust of Dade County
v. Lopez, 531 So.2d 946 which held that Article X, Section 4(c)'s exemption from
forced sale by creditors inured to the decedent's adult heirs."

The court went on to state that "when the decedent's homestead property passed
to the son by devise upon the decedent's death, the Constitutional exemption
from forced sale by the decedent's creditors inured to the son. Article X, Section
4 of the Florida Constitution defines the class of persons to whom the decedent's
exemption from forced sale homestead property inures; it does not mandate the
technique in which the qualified person must receive title . . . to hold otherwise
would discourage Florida residents from making wills and promote the passage
of property through intestacy laws."

The court discussed its previous holding in the case of In Re Estate of Hill, 552
So.2d 1133 cited above. That case involved a devise to a stepdaughter. The
court there said the property was subject to claims of the estate's creditors. "We
distinguished between 'heirs' and 'devisees' holding that devisees 'were not
entitled to receive the property exempt against the claims of creditors of the
estate'. The result we reached was correct. The stepdaughter was not a member
of the class designated as the decedent's heirs. However, we expressly recede
from Hill to the extent it can be read to bar devisees who are also the decedent's
heirs under Florida law from seeking the protection of Article X, Section of the
Florida Constitution upon inheriting the decedent homestead property."

Accordingly if we are asked to insure title to homestead property in the names of
devisees who are not heirs at law of the decedent, in addition to any other
appropriate exceptions, (such as Florida and U.S. Estate Taxes and
requirements for determination of passage of title), Schedule B must contain the
following exception:

       "Claims which may be made against the estate of _____________".
We should also take this exception where the devisees want to sell the property
to third parties, or to mortgage the property. Of course, if the claims period has
passed and no claims have been filed, the exception may be deleted. If claims
have been filed and have not been disposed of, we should not insure title unless
satisfactory arrangements are made to see that all claims would be disposed of
either out of the proceeds of this sale or from other assets of the estate.

                       HOMESTEAD REQUIREMENT

Remember, the homestead character of the property must be first determined
before any rules can be applied. Just because we have an individual in title does
not mean we can rely upon a probate inventory which discloses the property to
be the residence of the decedent. Prior to January 8, 1985 head of family status
must be determined. It would be appropriate to have a requirement in the title
commitment which would read as follows:

      "Order of the Circuit Court determining whether the land being insured
would constitute homestead of the decedent. If the decedent died prior to
January 8, 1985, the determination would have to include whether the decedent
was or was not survived by spouse or minor child and was the head of a family. If
the decedent died after January 8, 1985, the court must determine whether the
decedent was survived by spouse or minor child and that the property was the
decedent's homestead.

       Notice of the petition to determine homestead must be served on those
persons who would take by intestate succession and by will. If these persons are
not known or properly served with notice a guardian ad litem must be appointed
to accept notice and represent those persons not properly served or who are not

      If the land is determined to be homestead, the order must fix or determine
the names of the parties who take title to the homestead."

The recent decision in Cavanaugh v. Cavanaugh, 542 So.2d 1345 (Fla.App. 1
Dist. 1989) on reconsideration by the appellate court states that it would be
appropriate for the court to determine whether or not the property could be


There have been several appellate court decisions involving the issue of whether
an antenuptial agreement was binding to bar a spouses' claim to homestead
property after the death of the spouse who owned the homestead. These cases
are Hulsh v. Hulsh, 431 So.2d 658 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1983); Hartwell v.
Blasingame, 564 So.2d 543 (Fla.App. 2 Dist. 1990); Wadesworth v. First Union
National Bank of Florida, 564 So.2d 634 (Fla. App. 5 Dist. 1990); City National
Bank of Florida v. Tescher, 557 So.2d 615 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1990) and In
Re Guardianship of Betty Wyle Tanner, 564 So.2d 180 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1990).

In the case of City National Bank of Florida v. Tescher, 557 So.2d 615
(Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1990) the Third District Court of Appeal followed its earlier ruling
and held that a valid antenuptial agreement which was signed by the
homesteader's husband before their marriage was legally equivalent of his
having predeceased the decedent. The court held that if the decedent was not
survived by a spouse or minor child she could freely devise a homestead without
restriction to third parties.

The Tescher case was appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's
decision, found at 578 So.2d 701 (Fla. 1991), affirms the decision of the Third
District Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court stated:

       "Although the decedent's husband was physically alive at the time of her
death, he had waived all rights to homestead through the antenuptial agreement
which he executed. Such a waiver is valid under Florida law . . . the spouse's
antenuptial waiver of rights in the homestead is the legal equivalent of
predeceasing the decedent, for the purposes of Article X, Section 4(c). Thus,
decedent died with no one entitled to the protection of Article X, Section 4(c), and
the property could pass by devise under the residuary clause of the will."


From 1885 until the 1968 revision of the Florida Constitution effective January 8,
1968, the devise of homestead property by will was prohibited where the
decedent was survived by spouse and or children. The January 2, 1973 revision
made slight changes which are reflected below. PRIOR TO THE 1985

(1)     SURVIVED BY SPOUSE AND MINOR CHILD: The surviving spouse
takes a life estate in the homestead with a vested remainder in the lineal
descendants in being at the time of the decedent's death. If there was no spouse
the lineal descendants take all. Do not insure title either coming through a
personal representative's deed or a will devising the property to third parties, or
to the surviving spouse.
(2)     SURVIVED BY A SPOUSE BUT NO MINOR CHILD: The homestead may
be devised to the spouse. Do not insure title coming through a personal
representative's deed or a will devising property to others. If not devised to the
surviving spouse, the spouse takes a life estate with a vested remainder in the
lineal descendants.

Here prior to January 1, 1976 the above only applied if survived by a widow. If
the owner was survived by a husband, the law would not treat this as homestead
property and title would pass in accordance with the decedent's will or probate.

       SURVIVED BY A MINOR CHILD WITH NO SPOUSE: Do not insure title
coming through a personal representative's deed or through a will devising
property to others. Title to the property is in the lineal descendants in being at the
time of the decedent's death.

example adult children: Title may be devised to third parties but not through a
probate court sale.

                   LIFE AFTER THE 1985 AMENDMENT

The factual illustrations set forth above as applying to the pre 1985 Amendment
still apply. After the date of the amendment we remove from our consideration
whether the decedent was the head of a family.

Where a sole owner dies and from our review of the title, the probate file or other
facts we determine that the decedent was survived by a spouse or minor
children, we must look further. Did the decedent reside on the premises at date
of death or was the decedent's last residence before he or she went to a nursing

A single person who was never married but who was the parent (natural or
adoptive) of a minor child can have his or her home classified as homestead for
the purposes of Section 4(a). Same for a divorced person whether or not
remarried. Both statements are true even if his or her children reside with the
other parent or someone else. Any person who has a spouse or minor child
whether or not the minor child is supported or acknowledged who dies after
January 8, 1985, cannot devise his or her residence and the homestead
descends to the spouse if any for life with vested remainder in the lineal
descendants in being at date of death.

We now add a fifth category for your consideration, based on the changes to the
even if they do not live with the decedent or are not supported by the decedent,
nevertheless the property will be considered homestead and will pass in
accordance with the rules described above depending on whether there is a
spouse and or minor children.

Remember, since the property could be deemed to be the homestead of the
decedent, even though not survived by a spouse or minor child, the property may
be devised, but it may not pass through the estate pursuant to a personal
representative deed or court ordered sale.

The following chart may be helpful to graphically show when homestead property
may be devised. The headings identify whether the decedent was survived by a
certain type of person. The chart answers the question "may the homestead be
devised if the decedent was survived by ____________?"

                                SURVIVED BY:

Spouse       Minor     Spouse     Spouse       Adult    Adult
Only         Child     and        and Adult    Children Children
             Only      Minor      Children              and/or
                       Child                            others

YES But                           YES But   YES            YES
only to                           only to
Spouse                            Spouse
Otherwise                         Otherwise

NO           NO        NO         NO

If the homestead is not validly devised it descends as other intestate property
unless the decedent was survived by a spouse or minor child in which case the
spouse takes a life estate and lineal descendants in being at date of death take a
vested remainder.

The test for homestead before January 7, 1985 regardless of whether it would be
in a city or in a rural area would be as follows:
(1)    A sole owner in title.

(2)   Who was the head of a household consisting of spouse or minor children
and possibly others who would make a household. Which household constituted
the homestead of the family.

(3)    Wherein the record title holder had the obligation to support the family.

(4)    And that the property is where the family unit resided.

After January 7, 1985 the test for homestead would be that:

(1)    A sole owner in title.

(2)    The land was the individual's residence or homestead.

(3)    The individual was survived by spouse or minor child. The spouse or
minor child need not reside with the record title holder nor did the record title
holder need to support same.

Prior to the January 8, 1985 Amendment the test for determining who is the head
of the family for homestead purposes is a set of facts showing a continual
communal living by at least two individuals under circumstances that one is
recognized as the person in charge. The courts have frequently applied the test
of an obligation to support as being the test of whether a person is in charge; and
have held that a divorced man living by himself with an obligation to support
minor children creates constitutional homestead. Also with the various married
woman acts, the obligations of support between husband and wife are mutual. A
wife who is the sole title holder and who has the obligation of support would
therefore be entitled to homestead.

In Re Hersch 23 Bankruptcy Reporter 42, (1982) it was decided that a divorced
spouse may claim the benefit of the homestead exemption laws as being the
head of the household even though the former husband furnished practically all
support money for the entire family. It was found that the wife actively supervised
the children's education and upbringing and generally discharged the duties and
responsibilities of the head of the household.

The real property being claimed as homestead must be owned by the head of the
family (the person as discussed above who has the obligation of support) and
must cover contiguous lands 160 acres outside of or 1/2 acre within a
municipality upon which exists a dwelling house.
Since January 8, 1985, for conveyancing purposes, the test of ownership and
family is changed to whether the sole owner is married regardless of questions of
support of others. If married, joinder by spouse is necessary.


No, homestead does not inure to the benefit of persons who are not U.S. citizens
or permanent residents of the United States.

The Florida Supreme Court decided the case of In Re John Cook v. Uransky,
412 So.2d 340 (Fla. 1982) on a certified question from the Court of Appeals
which asked whether Florida allows foreigners visiting the United States as
tourists to place a residence owned in this state beyond the reach of creditors
under the Florida Homestead Exemption.

The Court stated that although it is not necessary that the head of the family
reside in the state or intend to make the property in question his permanent
residence, he must establish that he intended to make this property his family's
permanent residence.

The Court went on to cite from a prior opinion the fact that citizenship is not a
prerequisite for claiming the Homestead Exemption. The Court distinguished
between a person who is in the United States with a permanent visa and who
would have the freedom and right with certainty to make and declare a bona fide
intention of permanent residence in the home owned and located in the state;
from a citizen of a foreign country who is here under the authority of nothing
more than a temporary visa because such a person has no assurance that he
can continue to reside in good faith for any fixed period of time in this country.

Recently one of our appellate courts decided the case of Alcime v. Bystrom, 451
So.2d 1037 (Fla. App. 3 Dist. 1984), holding that notwithstanding the fact that
Ancel Alcime has resided in the United States for over twenty years, has resided
in the State of Florida for ten years, and has been employed in local government
for over six years, because he is an alien without a permanent visa, he cannot
under the prevailing interpretation of the applicable statute (196.012 (16, 17)),
prove an intention to become a permanent resident of the state for homestead
tax exemption purposes. The court ruled that a person who does not hold a
permanent visa cannot be a permanent resident of this state and thus cannot
place a residence owned in Florida beyond the reach of creditors under
homestead exemption from forced sale.

                    EXEMPTION FROM FORCED SALE

The homestead as a matter of law, can be conveyed free and clear of the lien of
a judgment (but not federal tax lien) that may be of record against a sole owner
or the title holder's spouse. For title insurance purposes we require that the lien
be satisfied or a judicial determination of homestead be had because there is no
procedure to prove homestead of record that will make title marketable.

There is no constitutional homestead in an estate by the entireties. See Florida
Statute 222.19 however specifically grants to the survivor of an estate by the
entireties the constitutional homestead exemption prohibiting forced sale by
judgment creditors, even if the survivor lives alone.


In Re Estate of Donovan, 550 So.2d 37 (Fla.App. 2 Dist. 1989). Before his death
the decedent executed a revocable trust. In his will he devised the real estate to
the trustee of the trust. The beneficiary of the trust was his wife. The court
reading the Trust Agreement and the will to determine his intent, stated that it
was the intent of the decedent to pass the property through the residuary clause
of his will to a trust; that under the terms of both documents, upon his death
vested the homestead property in his wife, if she survived him. The court
determined that the decedent's homestead vested in his spouse to the same
extent as if there had been no trust. The court stated "we think that the devise
complied with Article X, Section 4(c) of the Florida Constitution." What if you
encounter a voluntary conveyance by the sole owner of the property for no
consideration to an inter vivos trust in which it would appear that the sole owner
is a trustee and a beneficiary. What happens if the trust is revocable? Is the
property still homestead?

Consider the decision of In Re Estate of Johnson, 397 So.2d 970 (Fla.App. 4
Dist. 1981), wherein the decedent executed a revocable trust agreement and
designated himself as the trustee and life time beneficiary of the trust. He then
executed a quit claim deed transferring his residence from himself individually to
himself as trustee, which was recorded. The court found that as between the
various heirs and descendants and settlor, the property was homestead at date
of death even though held in a trust. It was easy to make this decision as the
settlor was both the trustee and income beneficiary. Title passed as though it has
not been conveyed to the trust.

What if the trust was irrevocable? What if there were other trustees or other


The Fifth District Court of Appeals in DeRuyter v. State, 521 So.2d 135 (Fla.App.
5 Dist. 1988) was asked to decide whether homestead property could be subject
to a State of Florida RICO Forfeiture Action. The court stated as follows:
        No appellate decisions on this question has been cited and none have
been found by our search. However, we view forfeiture of property due to its use
in a criminal enterprise, to be entirely different from the "forced sale" language in
the Constitution. The purpose of the Constitutional provision is to protect
homestead property from forced sale for debts of the owner. Tullis v. Tullis, 360
So.2d 375 (Fla. 1978). Forfeiture here is not predicated upon debts incurred by
the owner but rather is based solely on the illegal uses to which the property is
being put. Article X, Section 4, Florida Constitution was simply not designed to
immunize real property for use in criminal enterprise.

                        OTHER HOMESTEAD ISSUES
                            PARTIAL DEVISE

What if the decedent is survived by a spouse? Can less than the entire title to the
homestead be devised to the surviving spouse with the balance to another? In
two recently decided cases the answer given is NO.

In Re Estate of Cleeves, 509 So.2d 1256 (Fla.App. 2 Dist. 1987), the decedent
had devised all real property to the decedent's son and to the decedent's wife is
she survives him as tenants in common. This would have given a 1/2 interest to
the surviving spouse and a 1/2 interest to one of the decedent's children to the
exclusion of the decedent's other children. All children were adults. After much
discussion, citing the Supreme Court case of In Re Estate of Finch, 401 So.2d
1308 (Fla. 1981) the Court found that the decedent's attempt to devise an
undivided 1/2 interest to a surviving spouse as well as the attempt to devise a
comparable interest to his son is contrary to the constitutional and statutory
homestead provisions as well as the decision of the Supreme Court in the Finch
case and that the property must descend in accordance with the provisions of
Florida Statute 732.401(1).

Accordingly, the surviving spouse took a life estate in the entire homestead with
a vested remainder to the lineal descendants in being at the time of the
decedent's death (being all of the decedent's children and grandchildren).

Also in Iandoli v. Iandoli, 504 So.2d 426 (Fla.App. 4 Dist. 1987) the Appellate
Court ruled that an attempt to convey less than a 100% interest to the decedent's
widow where there were no minor children was invalid. The widow received a life
estate with the remainder to the lineal descendants.

                        SELECTION OF HOMESTEAD

The Second District Court of Appeal in Frase v. Branch, 362 So.2d 317 (Fla.App.
1978) decided the question of whether homestead rights will defeat an
agreement for deed in which the Grantor's spouse did not join where the Grantor
owned the property separately and the grantor and his spouse retained more
than 160 contiguous acres of rural land in excess of the property subject to the
agreement. The agreement for deed was held to operate as a selection of
homestead; that is, the homestead did not include the 40 acres which the land
owner had contracted to sell. The Court noted that this rule continued to provide
maximum protection to the landowner and his family while preventing the
homestead laws from becoming a means to escape debt. The maximum amount
of rural land, 160 acres, qualified to be selected as homestead was retained by
the grantor. Therefore, since the grantor displayed an "unequivocal intent" not to
use the land specified in the agreement for deed, it was not homestead and
therefore could be alienated without the joinder of his wife.

                     HOMESTEAD STATUS - MOVING

In Brown v. Lewis, (520 F.Supp. 1114) an action was commenced on a judgment
lien against the land involved where the judgment debtor had vacated the
property after executing a contract for sale but before the closing and
conveyance. The court decided that the property was not subject to the judgment
lien because the judgment debtor did not abandon the property in order to
terminate his homestead status, but had surrendered possession of the property
pursuant to the provisions of the overall sales transaction. This as you can see is
a question of what was the intention of the parties.


A 1962 conveyance of homestead from a record title holder to himself and his
new spouse was held to be void ab initio under Article X, Section 4 of the 1885
Constitution. The appellate court in Nelson v. Boyer, 412 So.2d 31 (Fla.App. 2
Dist. 1982) held that since at the time of the marriage the parties were residing in
the home it immediately had become homestead property.


(1)   Homestead must be listed in the probate inventory and designated as
such (RP & GP 5.340(a)). However this is not conclusive proof.

(2)    Determination of Homestead should be by judicial order in the circuit court
or probate proceedings. Do not rely upon the petition in the probate case as that
does not disclose surviving spouse and lineal descendants.

(3)     Should we rely upon an affidavit to establish heirship? It must not be relied
upon from any party who would have a pecuniary interest such as the spouse,
lineal, real estate brokers etc.
(4)    If homestead, may land be devised in a testate estate? Yes if no spouse
or minor child. A residuary clause is sufficient to pass homestead if a specific
devise is not used. In Re Estate of Murphy, 340 So.2d 107 (Fla. 1976). Of course
a devise to the spouse of less than the entire fee simple is invalid In Re Estate of
Finch, 401 So.2d 1308 (Fla. 1981).

(5)    Before homestead can be validly devised to third parties a judicial
determination must be made that the decedent left neither a spouse or minor

(6)    If the homestead is not validly devised it descends as other intestate
property unless the decedent was survived by a spouse or minor child in which
case the spouse takes a life estate and lineal descendants in being at date of
death take a vested remainder.

(7)   If not validly devised the identity of the persons entitled to receive a
homestead should be judicially determined.

(8)     Homestead is not an asset of the estate. The Personal Representative is
not empowered to possess it, sell it or deal with it in any manner except to list it
in the inventory.

(9)     If validly devised is it a probative asset? It is not and the personal
representative is not empowered to convey property even where the homestead
is validly devised.

(10) Homestead devised to a spouse or heir passed free of decedents debts.
Homestead devised to persons not heirs may be subject to debts.

(11) If the sole owner has died but is not a U.S. citizen or a permanent
resident, the property would not be homestead for purpose of decedent and
distribution; conveyancing purposes; exemption from forced sale; or taxation
purposes. However, a court order would have to be obtained establishing these

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