Bankruptcy Judge Attacks Entireties Ownership of Automobiles

In the case of In re Shilo, Case No. 03-9358, Judge Jenneman issued an Memorandum Opinion which held that a car owned by married couple as husband or wife with rights of survivorship is not legally owned tenants by entireties and is not exempt from the husband’s individual creditors. The general rule in Florida is that both real and personal property owned tenants by entireties is exempt from the creditors of either spouse individually, although it is not exempt from any joint creditors

The Court recognized that the Florida Supreme Court decision in the Beal Bank case created a presumption that all personal property owned by husband and wife is owned tenants by entireties. The Judge found that Florida Statute 319.22 essentially pre-empts the Beal Bank decision as to jointly owned motor vehicles. The Statute says that a motor vehicle can be owned by husband “and” wife or by husband “or” wife- the choice is up to the married couple. Under the statute, when a car is owned husband “or” wife, either spouse may alientate title to the car. The Court held that because either spouse can transfer title to a car titled husband “or” wife, the creditors of either spouse can likewise access the individual’s spouse’s interest in the motor vehicle

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Jon Alper is an expert in asset protection planning for individuals and small businesses.

Jon Alper

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