Montana State University Extension has an updated MontGuide about filing a homestead declaration and the benefits it gives homeowners.

Montana defines a homestead as a house a person lives in and the land on which it sits. A mobile home or manufactured home where the owners do not own the land is also considered a homestead. The property must be a person’s primary residence to be eligible for a homestead declaration, explained Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist.

By signing and filing a homestead declaration, Montanans can protect their property up to $350,000 in value against a creditor’s claims, she added. Goetting gave the hypothetical example of a wife who discovers her husband has accumulated $15,000 in gambling debt. They have equity in the home of $50,000. A homestead declaration would protect the $50,000 equity in the house from creditors.

“Even though a spouse may not be listed on the deed or other documents of title — or may not have directly contributed money to pay for the property — the spouse has a legal interest in the property because of the marriage,” Goetting added. “Therefore, both spouses should sign the homestead declaration. The interest of a spouse who does not sign is not exempt.”

Montana has no standard homestead declaration form, although many county clerks and recorders have example forms.

“The Senior and Long-Term Care Division provides a homestead declaration form at our website,” said Katy Lovell, Montana legal developer with Aging Services. “After the homestead declaration form is completed, signed and notarized, it should be filed with the clerk and recorder in the county in which the home or mobile home is located.”

More information can be found in the MontGuide “Using a Homestead Declaration to Protect Your Home from Creditors” at http://store.msuextension.org/publications/FamilyFinancialManagement/MT199815HR.pdf. Printed copies are also available from county or reservation Extension offices.