homestead – an artificial estate in land, devised to protect the possession and enjoyment of the owner against the claims of his creditors, by withdrawing the property from execution and forced sale, so long as the land is occupied as a home; includes the house, outbuilding , and adjoining land

     This page is continued from Intro >>>> Legal Precepts Adopted into U.S. Law from Europe >>>> Common Law >>>> Right to Homestead:


n. (bef. 12c)

1. The house, outbuilding , and adjoining land owned and occupied by a person or family as a residence.  *  As long as the homestead does not exceed in area or value the limits fixed by law, in most states it is exempt from forced sale for collection of a debt. — aka homestead estate. —homestead, vb. —homesteading, n

2. A surviving spouse’s right of occupying the family home for life.  *  In some states, the right is extended to other dependents of a decedent. [1]

1. The home place; the place where the home is.  It is the home, the house and the adjoining land, where the head of the family dwells; the home farm.  Technically, however, and under the modern homestead laws, a homestead is an artificial estate in land, devised to protect the possession and enjoyment of the owner against the claims of his creditors, by withdrawing the property from execution and forced sale, so long as the land is occupied as a home. [2]

1. In a popular sense, the place of the home — the residence of the family; it represents the dwelling house in which the family resides, with the usual and customary appurtenances, including the outbuildings of every kind necessary or convenient for family use, and the lands used for the purposes thereof.  In a legal sense, a term strictly American, but susceptible to a variety of conceptions, one being immunity from the claims of creditors, another the restriction of the conveyance or incumbering of such property, still another a provision for surviving spouse and minor children to be made out of the lands of a decedent, which may or may not be property to which a homestead exemption has attached, and, in still other senses, the right, based on residence and cultivation, to acquire a tract of land out of the public lands of the United States, and the subject of such a right.  26 Am J1st Home § 1.

Used in a will by way of describing the subject matter of a devise, it is uniformly held that the term “homestead” is not limited to the quantity or value of land denominated in applicable statutes as constituting an exemption from execution. 57 Am J1st Wills § 1356.
head of family; homestall; householder; probate homestead; reassignment of homestead; rural homestead; urban homestead. [3]

1. In a legal sense, the right to own real property free and clear of the claims of creditors, provided the owner occupies the property as her home.  See head of family; head of household.

2. In a more general sense, the place of residence of the family. [4]

1. The place where a home or house is situated; the permanent residence of a person who is the head of a family, with the land and outbuildings contiguous to the house. [5]

1.  The dwelling house and the adjoining land where the head of the family dwells; the home farm. The fixed residence of the family, with the land, usual and customary appurtenances, and buildings surrounding the main house.

Technically, and under the modern homestead laws, an artificial estate in land, devised to protect the possession and enjoyment of the owner against the claims of his creditors, by withdrawing the property from execution and forced sale, so long as the land is occupied as a home.  [6]

Related Terms:

homesteader – the claimant, who either acquires or occupies, a homestead.


homestead corporations – Corporations organized for the purpose of acquiring lands in large tracts, paying off incumbrances thereon, improving and subdividing them into homestead lots or parcels, and distributing them among the shareholders, and for the accumulation of a fund for such purposes.

homestead entry See Entry.

homestead exemption laws –  Laws passed in most states allowing a householder or head of a family to designate a house and land as his homestead, and exempting the same homestead from execution by creditors for his general debts (in, for example, bankruptcy proceedings). Property tax reductions or exemptions (for all or part of the tax) are also available in some states for homesteaded property. Statutory requirements to establish a homestead may include a formal declaration to be recorded annually.

homestead right – The personal right to the beneficial, peaceful and uninterrupted use of the home property free from claims of creditors.

probate homestead – A homestead set apart by the probate court for the use of a surviving husband or wife and the minor children out of the common property, or out of the real estate belonging to the deceased. [6]

Additional Research:

Homestead (defined). 22 Ark. 400 ; 4 Cal. 23 ; 33 id. 220 ; 7 N.H. 241, 245 ; 36 Id. 166 ; 46 Id. 52 ; 51 Id. 253 ; 23 Tex. 498 ; 31 Id. 677 ; 39 Id. 357 ; 15 Wis. 635.

___________________ (what is). 12 Bankr. Reg. 248 ; 15 39 Id. 446 ; 14 Iowa 73 ; 36 Id. 394 ; 12 Kan. 257 ; 11 Allen (Mass.) 194 ; 1 Mich. N. P. 210 ; 45 Miss. 170 ; 62 Mo. 498 ; 17 Tex. 582 ; 18 Id. 413 ; 34 Id. 617 ; 46 Vt. 292.

___________________ (what is not). 7 Cal. 245 ; 15 Minn. 116 ; 24 Tex. 224 ; 28 Vt. 672 ; 16 Wis. 114.

___________________ (abandonment of). 18 Iowa 4).

___________________ (dedication of). 47 Cal. 627.

___________________ (occupancy of). 4 Cal 268 ; 43 ill. 169.

___________________ (in a deed). 7 N.H. 241.

___________________ (in a will). 14 Iowa 73 ; 111 Mass. 386 ; 7 Pick. (Mass.) 191.

__________________ (in consitution of Kansas). 2 Dill. (U.S.) 339.

__________________ (in constitution of Florida). 2 Wood (U.S.) 657.

__________________ (in constitution of North Carolina). 67 N.C. 293 ; 69 Id. 289.

__________________ (under exemption laws). 22 Ark. 400 ; 54 Ill. 175 ; 58 Id. 425 ; 8 Allen (Mass.) 575 ; 100 Mass. 234 ; 20 Mich. 79; 46 N.H. 43, 45 ; 16 Wis. 157. [5]


See Resources for Homesteaders.


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1] Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]:  Black’s Law Dictionary Second Edition Online, “HOMESTEAD”:

[3]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[4]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition by Jack Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[5]: A Dictionary of American and English law, with definitions of the Technical Terms fo the Canon and Civil Laws.  Also, containing a full collection of Latin maxims, and citations of by Rapalje, Steward; Lawrence, Robert Linn.  Vol. 1.  

[6]: West Publishing’s Publisher’s Editorial Staff, Black’s Law Dictionary Sixth “Centennial” Edition (1891-1991) by Henry Campbell Black, M.A..  ISBN-0-314-76271-X


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