Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Bankruptcy Court Draws Distinction Between Florida Homestead Exemptions

By:  Jeffrey Skatoff, Esq.

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, in In re Jacques Scott, an April 12, 2022 Order, overruled a bankruptcy trustee’s objection to a debtor’s claimed exemptions under Florida homestead law, and clarified the distinction between available exemptions concerning homestead.

Florida Homestead Exemptions and Bankruptcy

The Debtor in this case claimed his Green Boat Trailer mobile home as exempt from property of his bankruptcy estate under federal bankruptcy law and Fla. Stat. § 222.05.  The Debtor also claimed an exemption under federal law and Fla. Stat. § 222.25(4).

The bankruptcy trustee objected to the claimed exemptions, arguing that a debtor may not claim the $4,000 personal property exemption provided by Fla. Stat. § 222.25(4) if the debtor has also claimed a Florida homestead exemption.

No $4,000 Exemption In Bankruptcy If Homestead Exemption Claimed Under Section 4, Article X Of the Florida Constitution

The Bankruptcy Court closely examined the language of section 222.25(4) and determined that the statute only prohibits a debtor from claiming the $4,000 exemption if the debtor claims or receives the benefits of a homestead exemption under section 4, article X of the Florida Constitution.

Section 222.25(4) states:

The following property is exempt from attachment, garnishment, or other legal process … (4) A debtor’s interest in personal property, not to exceed $4,000, if the debtor does not claim or receive the benefits of a homestead exemption under s. 4, Art. X of the State Constitution. This exemption does not apply to a debt owed for child support or spousal support.

Here, the debtor did not claim a homestead exemption under section 4, Article X of the Florida Constitution.  Rather, he claimed a statutory exemption in his mobile home under Fla. Stat. 222.05, which states:

Any person owning and occupying any dwelling house, including a mobile home used as a residence, or modular home, on land not his or her own which he or she may lawfully possess, by lease or otherwise, and claiming such house, mobile home, or modular home as his or her homestead, shall be entitled to the exemption of such house, mobile home, or modular home from levy and sale as aforesaid.

Is The Statutory Homestead Exemption For a Mobile Home the Same As the Homestead Exemption Under Section 4, Article X of the Florida Constitution?

No, the two homestead exemptions are different – one applies to land or real property owned by a debtor, while the other applies to persons who do not own the land upon which their mobile home is situated.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court quoted decisions from the Middle and Northern District Of Florida in drawing the distinction between the two homestead exemptions:

[T]he homestead exemption provided by Article X, Section 4(a)(1) of the Florida Constitution applies to improved land or real property owned by a debtor, provided the debtor’s residence is situated on the land. Section 222.05 of the Florida Statutes, on the other hand, expressly applies to persons who do not own the land upon which their mobile home is situated.

Because the homestead exemption for a mobile home and the homestead exemption under section 4, article X of the Florida Constitution are different, a homestead exemption under section 222.05 is not a “homestead exemption under s. 4, Art. X of the State Constitution” that would disqualify the debtor from claiming the $4,000 personal property exemption provided by section 222.25(4).

The Court overruled the bankruptcy trustee’s objection to the debtor’s claimed exemptions based on Florida homestead.  Homestead has been called Florida’s legal chameleon and can often be hotly debated in Florida courts.  Read the Complete Guide to Florida Homestead to learn more, or contact a Florida probate lawyer.

Jeffrey Skatoff is a Florida probate attorney.  To have Mr. Skatoff review your case free of charge, please go to his website.

Probate attorney Jeffrey Skatoff handles probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation.

Jeffrey H. Skatoff, Esq.

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