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San Antonio Express-News, August 22, 1997

Homestead 65+ Benefits

© 1989-2004, Paul Premack

Dear Mr. Premack: We enjoy and never miss your informative column. We have several questions regarding homestead exemptions for those over 65. Our home is our residence homestead for which we have been receiving the homestead exemption. My wife becomes 65 this October, and I reach 65 during the next calendar year (July 1998). Does the over 65 exemption require both husband and wife to be 65, or just one of us? How and when do we apply for this exemption? Also our home is titled in the name of our family living trust; does this have any impact upon the over 65 exemption? Thanks for your help. -- C.W. via Email

The exemption you speak of is designed to lower the amount of property taxes paid by homeowners who reach age 65. It is really a 65 plus exemption, not an "over-65" exemption.

To qualify, you must be 65 or older on January 1st of the year you want the exemption. For example, if your wife turns 65 in October 1997, the exemption is not available for 1997. She must wait until 1998, because she will already be 65 on January 1st of that tax year. Only one spouse need reach this age for the tax exemption to apply.

As a 65 plus homeowner, she'll qualify for a $10,000 homestead exemption for school taxes on your home's value, in addition to the $5,000 general exemption (which is going up to $15,000 for 1998). Additionally, a taxing unit - including a school district - can offer an additional exemption of at least $3,000 for taxpayers age 65 plus.

She can apply for the exemption with a telephone call to your local Appraisal District. In San Antonio, call the Bexar Appraisal District at 224-2432. They will ask for her birth date and the tax account number, so have last year's tax receipt handy. Once they verify the information against their records, they'll send her a form to complete and return.

What if a homeowner is already receiving the 65 plus exemption, his spouse is younger than 65, and he dies? Texas law allows the exemption to rollover to the younger spouse so long as she is 55 or older. The younger spouse must also become owner of the house after the death, and must reside in the home. This is another good reason to have a valid and up-to-date Will.

You pose another question: your home is owned by a living trust, so you do not technically own the house. Under section 11.13(j) of the Texas Tax Code, you get the 65 plus exemption only if your trust is a "qualifying trust." This is an extremely easy thing to do: your trust agreement must contain a paragraph that entitles you (as the trust's creator) to reside in the house. Review your trust. If there is no language referring to 11.13(j), you may need to amend the trust to qualify for the 65 plus exemption.

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Disclaimer: This column answers a specific legal question offered by an individual in the South Texas area. The answer may or may not match your individual situation. Be careful not to treat this column as specific legal advice that meets your individual needs. It may give you a solid basis for discussion with your own attorney. Also, please be aware that laws change. You should consult with your personal attorney before you take any action on this or any legal issue.


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