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Claiming household exemption in Florida can be tough for some

Florida remains a popular place to retire for many people from out of state. Some people with sufficient means choose to split their time between two homes: autumn and winter in Florida, spring and summer further north.

Being a “snow bird” can be a pleasant way for many people to spend their retirement. But it can also complicate their estate administration, especially if they pass away with significant debts.

That is because, when an estate goes into probate, creditors may seek to get paid off. They might even try to seize assets for compensation.

Florida law protects real estate from this process, if the property was the decedent’s primary residence. This is known as the homestead exemption.

Determining whether a home was a homestead is easy enough when the decedent only owned one house. But when a decedent split his or her time between Florida and another state, the question of which home was his or her homestead often becomes hazy.

This can become a significant headache for the estate’s personal representatives, also known as executors, as they try to protect the estate from creditors as much as possible. The decedent may have wanted to leave their Florida home to loved ones, so losing it to a bank or other lender would go against those wishes.

A probate attorney can help the personal representatives challenge any creditor claims. Every case is different, but the evidence may allow the estate to control the decedent’s Florida property as he or she intended.

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