A new client visited with me and presented a unique and interesting asset protection issue. The client is a British citizen who is living in Florida. He has a temporary immigration visa which is renewable. He owns approximately 120 contiguous acres of land consisting of six separate legal parcels. His primary residence, owned jointly with his wife, is situated on one parcel. Two separate parcels are used exclusively for a commercial business. The property is worth over one million dollars.
Homestead protection is not available because the client does not have a permanent visa. Homestead protection requires that the debtor has the intent to make the residence his permanent home. Courts have held that such intent cannot exist for people who lack the legal basis to permanently reside in Florida.
A second problem with homestead for this client is the commercial use of part of the property. Although homestead extends to 160 contiguous acres in most cases, it only applies to residential use. Here, there are separate and distinct parcels which although contiguous to the residential parcel, themselves are used exclusively for business purposes. Even if the client had a permanent visa, it is likely that the only property which would be deemed homestead is that parcel of land on which his primary residence is located.
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