Free Legal Lecture March 18 – “Foreclosure Defense of Homesteads”

So you did not go to law school and you did not pass the Bar Exam.  No problem.  The People’s Law School is in session again with its series of legal lectures presented by St. Johns County Legal Aid.  The March 18th topic is “Foreclosure Defense of Homesteads.”  This FREE one-hour class starts at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library (6670 US 1 South, St. Augustine, Florida). The People’s Law School schedule for the rest of the spring is as follows: March 25 – “How Can You Avoid the Need for Guardianship?” All classes are free and start at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library.  For more information on St. Johns County Legal Aid and their services, go to www.jaxlegalaid.org.   Read More

Renting Out Your Primary Residence

So you decided to make a little extra income by renting out your primary residence.  However, what you gain in rent you could lose in unexpected expenses and other losses.  Examine your choice carefully before you put a renter in your homestead.  Here are a few items to consider: Homestead Exemption Tax By renting out your primary residence, that property is no longer eligible for homestead tax exemption.  That does not necessarily mean that renting out your home is a bad idea, just make sure the rental income will not cost you more than you gain from homestead tax exemption. Homeowner Assistance If you are looking to rental income to help you save your mortgage loan, you may be giving up a most valuable asset to renters:  your home.  Many homeowner assistance programs are for the primary residence.  If you are not living there, foreclosure avoidance programs cannot help you save that property.  If the rental income is not enough to service the mortgage and save the loan, you may not have access to adequate mortgage relief. Being a Landlord Learn about being a landlord so you can do it cost-effectively.  Renters in possession have rights…even if it is your […] Read More

Have You Filed Your Homestead

Do you have a new primary residence?  Have you filed for your homestead tax exemption?  The deadline is coming up on March 1, 2015.  For your convenience you can file online at the St. Johns County Property Appraiser website at www.sjcpa.us.  Otherwise all location offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Main Office 4030 Lewis Speedway Suite 203 St. Augustine, Florida 32084   Ponte Vedra Annex 5430 Palm Valley Road Ponte Vedra, Florida 32082   Julington Creek Annex 725 Flora Branch Road St. Johns, Florida 32259   Read More

Where Is My Homestead Exemption?

Once there was an elephant who could remember where he put everything.  He knew where his spectacles were and where he had set the TV remote.  He could even find his car keys at all times, though it was very difficult for him to drive a car, given the fact that he was an elephant. Now the elephant had a son who was always very good to him.  So the father elephant decided to go ahead and deed his house over to his good son.  This seemed like a fine plan at the time; the father and son got along very well and the father wanted the son to have the house immediately upon his death.  However, when the elephants received their tax bill for the property that year, the amount due was quite a bit more.  The father elephant who could find everything was alarmed to see that the homestead exemption missing was from the tax bill. Where could it have gone?  The elephants looked under the table, in the couch cushions, and behind the refrigerator, but they could not find the homestead exemption anywhere. Finally the father elephant realized what he had done.  By putting his house in […] Read More

What Happened to My Homestead?

Once upon a time there was a father who owned a lovely plot of land where he had lived for years and years.  He maintained a good and healthy lifestyle full of fresh air and plenty of vegetables, but still the father knew that he would not live forever, and so he decided to do a little estate planning.  He wanted his son to inherit everything, so he went ahead and put everything in his son’s name, including the land on which he lived, that way his son would have it all and not have to wait for probate.  The only problem was, when the father received his property tax bill, it was a lot higher than what he was used to paying. By putting his primary residence in his son’s name, the father was trying to make inheritance easier and faster for his son, but in doing so, he had given up his own homestead exemption on his property taxes. Competent legal counsel can help you review all your estate planning choices and their consequences so you can make informed decisions.  An attorney can also help you ensure your will is properly executed so that your assets will be […] Read More

Taxes & Insurance

Unpaid taxes and insurance are a problem with any mortgage.  The same is true for a Reverse Mortgage. A Reverse Mortgage (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage or HECM) is for homeowners 62 or older who have paid off or paid down the mortgage on their primary residence.  The program allows them to withdraw funds from the equity in their home in a fixed monthly amount or a line of credit or a combination of both. With a Reverse Mortgage you do not have a monthly mortgage payment, but you still have to pay your property tax and homeowners insurance.  Sometimes a Reverse Mortgage is the best solution to help an older person live more comfortably; however, a Reverse Mortgage is not for everybody.  To begin with, you have to be 62 or older (and there are other requirements), but beyond that, it depends on your circumstances whether a Reverse Mortgage is an advantage or a disadvantage. Having an attorney look over your shoulder can help you get the deal you think you are getting.  An attorney who represents you and only you can help watch out for your interests and make sure you understand the terms of the Reverse Mortgage contract, […] Read More

Short Sale & Reverse Mortgage

A Short Sale does not usually happen quickly and you do not have to drive backwards to get a Reverse Mortgage.  Both are strategies to deal with mortgage debt, but which has the best benefit depends on your situation (and if you qualify). A Short Sale is when the lender agrees to accept less than a full payoff of the mortgage balance.  The lender gets a smaller amount than what is owed, but generally more than if the lender finished the foreclosure and sold the property themselves.  The homeowner typically sacrifices his credit on the altar of getting the short sale done, but usually a Short Sale is not as bad on a credit score as a completed foreclosure lawsuit (or Bankruptcy). A Short Sale is often best for the universe when a borrower cannot pay his mortgage—the bank receives more than they would otherwise in foreclosure, the homeowner gets out of a house he cannot afford and can start to rebuild his credit, and the neighborhood gets a new owner faster—instead of leaving the house vacant for months—which helps maintain property value in the area.  Also the transaction stays local, benefitting the local economy—the vendors involved in the completion […] Read More

People’s Law School – March 18: ‘Foreclosure Defense of Homesteads’

If you move out to rent your home, then the property status changes from primary residence to investment property, and you are no longer eligible to claim homestead exemption on the property.  In trying to service the mortgage through a rental income, you could cost yourself more money through the loss of your homestead exemption.  Learn more at the upcoming legal lecture, ‘Foreclosure Defense of Homesteads.’ The People’s Law School is in session again this spring, with a series of legal lectures presented by St. Johns County Legal Aid.  The March 18th topic is “Foreclosure Defense of Homesteads.”  This FREE one-hour class starts at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library (6670 US 1 South, St. Augustine, Florida). The People’s Law School schedule for the rest of the spring is as follows: April 1 – How Can You Avoid the Need for Guardianship? April 8 – Is Probate a Dirty Word? April 15 – Spouse in a Nursing Home—Do You Have to Go Broke? April 22 – Should You Ever Put Someone Else’s name on Your Deed? May 13 – Do You Need a Will?  What If You Die Without One? All classes are free and start at 4:00 p.m. […] Read More

Homestead Exemption Deadline

Homestead Exemption filing deadline is March 1st.  You have to be alive, and you have to be living on the property as a primary residence that you own in order to be eligible for this tax benefit. The first requirement of homestead exemption is that you have to live at the property.  If you are dead, then you no longer qualify for that first requirement and you can disregard this post. If you are not dead, then note there are ways you can disqualify yourself from the advantages of homestead exemption. If you move out to rent your home, then the property status changes from primary residence to investment property, and you are no longer eligible to claim homestead exemption on the property.  In trying to service the mortgage through a rental income, you could cost yourself more money through the loss of your homestead exemption. Trading title among family members is another way to disqualify the property from homestead exemption.  It may look good on paper, but be costly come tax time. Furthermore, if you jeopardize your homestead exemption, you are at a disadvantage to qualify for workout assistance from your loan servicer. For more information on Homestead Exemption […] Read More

Marital Disability

Marital Disability does not mean you get to park in a wheelchair accessible space.  Marriage comes with many benefits, but it also comes with a disability regarding sale of your homestead. There are a lot of different opinions about marriage.  The one the judge has is that you cannot sell your primary residence without your spouse’s permission…even if your spouse’s name is not on the deed. If you bought a homestead before you got married, your spouse does not own that property, but your spouse can prevent you from selling it.  That is not so much a spousal right as it is a marital disability. (Note that if you pass away without a will and with the homestead only in your name, then your spouse and children would share in ownership of the house.  However, if you convey the property from you to you and your spouse, then the property ownership goes solely to your spouse without probate or a will.  Please see an attorney to prepare the paperwork for this transaction to help ensure your intentions are properly fulfilled.)   Read More