Many people from all over the country who have current or potential legal problems are interested in moving to Florida to take advantage of Florida’s homestead protection and other asset protection laws.
It is never too late to move to Florida to obtain protection from civil liability. Even after a judgment is entered against you in another state, one may legally become a Florida resident and protect money invested in a new Florida homestead property. There are no civil or criminal penalties for moving to Florida when one is being sued somewhere else or when one has a civil judgment against them in another state. A possible complication exists if another state’s court has issued an injunction against transfers of assets.
In order to protect money in a Florida homestead property or in other assets protected by Florida law, one must become a Florida resident. Residents of other states who buy real estate in Florida cannot protect that real estate under Florida’s homestead laws. Moving to Florida requires severing ties to the state you moved from. For example, you should sell your current residence, turn in your driver’s license, and close your bank accounts in your current state. At the same time, you would purchase or rent a primary residence in Florida and take other steps to become a Florida resident. Some people rent first to establish residency while they search for a homestead to purchase. Requirements for Florida residency are explained elsewhere on this website.
Protection of Florida homestead is effective immediately. After purchasing a Florida homestead and moving belongings into the homestead, the homestead is immediately protected from creditors as long as other facts and circumstances show intent to make the new homestead a permanent home. There is no waiting period before Florida’s homestead protection takes effect to protect the debtor’s assets against existing creditors. There may be a two-year waiting period before a debtor can file bankruptcy in Florida and a longer waiting period before the homestead is protected in bankruptcy. The new bankruptcy law extends the waiting period to 40 months for homestead equity over $146,450. Florida homestead law is explained in greater detail elsewhere on this website.