The Spring 2004 edition of the American Bar Associations’s Real Property Journal included an interesting comparison of homestead laws of different states. It is well known that Florida and Texas have the most protective homestead provisions in their state constitutions. Both states protect unlimited value of homestead property, and the courts of both states have liberally construed these homestead protections in favor of debtors. Texas protects homesteads of unlimited value up to 200 acres in size, and Florida protects homesteads of unlimited value up to 160 acres in a county and ½ acre within a municipality. So, which state has the best protection?
Texas courts have refused to extend homestead protection to protect criminal conduct. The Florida Supreme Court, in a 1992 decision, said that the Florida Constitution does not exempt from homestead protection the proceeds of criminal activity. In addition, the Florida Supreme Court in 2001 case of Havoco v. Hill stated that homestead protections supersede fraudulent conveyance claims.
The lack of any exception from criminal proceeds under Florida case law is one reason why people such as Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco), Scott Sullivan (Worldcom) and O.J. Simpson have moved to Florida and built very expensive homes. It is fair to say that why the Constitutional homestead provisions of Florida and Texas are similar, the Florida courts have made Florida’s homestead protections most attractive to those seeking shelter from liability.
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