California is serious about collecting judgments. A gentleman called me from California last week to inquire about moving to Florida and transferring his bank accounts and his wife’s separate bank accounts to Florida bank accounts owned by he and his wife jointly. A judgment had already been entered against the caller by a California court, although his wife had not been named in the lawsuit. In Florida, as blog readers know, a creditor cannot garnish bank accounts owned jointly by the debtor and the non-debtor spouse because such joint accounts are presumed to be tenants by the entireties property. TE assets of Florida residence are protected from judgments against one spouse
The caller informed me that the California creditor had already garnished a bank account titled only in his wife’s name even though there was not judgment against her. The theory, as told to me, is that he has an interest in his wife’s account under California’s community property laws. If true, then in California one can lose their property by virtue of being married to a person with creditor problems.
This concept is foreign to us in Florida because our state recognizes separate property of husband and wife. No way could a creditor attack assets of a non-debtor spouse unless the non-debtor spouse received property fraudulently transferred by the debtor spouse. This example illustrates how different asset protection practice varies among the states.