California homestead laws are aimed at protecting homeowners and other small property owners from being left homeless during times of economic difficulties. These laws (Civ. Proc. §704.710, et seq.) allow individuals to declare a portion of their property as protected homesteads. Should an individual file for bankruptcy, these homesteads are off-limits to creditors.
In California, one may declare at least $175,000 worth of their property as a homestead if either spouse is over 65 or disabled and unable to engage in substantial employment.
If the individual is 55 or older with a gross income of not more than $25,000 or if married not more than $35,000, the law allows them to declare $175,000 worth of property as their homestead.
If the debtor or spouse lives in the house with at least one member of the family with no interest in the homestead, they may declare at least $100,000 as their homestead. Anyone else can declare at least $75,000 as their homestead.
California regulates homestead filing services to protect homeowners from exploitation from some service providers who were misrepresenting the need for filing services. It had been noted that these providers were also misinterpreting the legal definition of California’s homestead exemption.
The state has put up regulations that must be observed strictly by all non-attorney providers who wish to charge for their services:
- The provider must properly prepare a homestead declaration
- The provider must have the declaration notarized and pay the notary’s fee
- The provider must have the declaration recorded at the county recording office within 10 days of being notarized and pay the recording fee
- The provider must give the homeowner a written disclosure statement before requesting payment.
- The provider may not charge more than $25 for the services, including notary and recording fees.