Norris v. Thomas, 215 S.W.3d 851 (2007).

Estate Administration



In a certified question from a bankruptcy case pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the Texas Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision determined in a case of first impression that a boat does not qualify as a homestead under Texas Constitution, Article XVI, §§ 50 & 51. Although the boat was used as the claimant’s primary residence and otherwise satisfied the requirements of a homestead, it could not qualify for homestead protection because it was not attached to land. In the court’s words, “In order to qualify as a homestead, a residence must rest on the land and have a requisite degree of physical permanency, immobility, and attachment to fixed realty. A dock-based umbilical cord providing water, electricity, and phone service may help make a boat habitable, but the attachment to land is too slight to warrant homestead protection.” Norris at 403.

Moral: The surviving spouse and minor children of a decedent whose primary residence is a boat will not be able to claim homestead rights such as the right to occupy the homestead until death, reaching age of majority, or abandonment. Likewise, the floating home will not be protected from the estate’s general creditors.