One of my clients asked me to review his applications and titling of his financial accounts to make sure he properly registered his accounts as tenants by entireties. In Florida, a joint marital account with rights of survivorship is presumed to be held as tenants by entireties unless the debtor has shown his intent to disclaim entireties ownership in favor of another form of joint title.
This client and his wife had a securities account titled joint tenants with survivorship (JTWROS). On the application they couple checked the JRWROS box. There was not a tenants by entireties box on the application. However, there was on the application an alternative box that said “Other _____.” The applicant could have checked this box and filled in the blank to chose any other form of ownership not expressly printed on the application form such as entireties ownership.
The judgment creditor argued that the debtor disclaimed entireties ownership because he did not check the “Other” box and fill in “tenants by entireties” (or an abbreviation) in the blank provided. The creditor said that the form clearly provides the account applicant the chance to select entireties ownership, and that by not checking this box and filling in the blank space, this debtor disclaimed the entireties option.
An appellate court considered this issue in the context of a Florida bankruptcy case where the bankruptcy court and district court had granted an exemption to the debtor’s stock titled as JTWROS in a very similar fact situation. This case involved a stock certificate the debtor titled as JTWROS when the ownership application did not specifically offer an entireties option but did include an “Other” alternative choice.
In its unpublished opinion the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Florida law’s presumption of entireties ownership of marital property was not overcome just because the stock title application included an option that said “Other.” The result may have been different if the application form clearly offered tenants by entireties as one of the ownership choices.