One of my married clients this week had recently moved to Florida to seek protection from a large lawsuit. The client owned property jointly with his wife in several states including his previous domicile of Pennsylvania, a vacation home in North Carolina, and newly acquired joint property in Florida. The issue presented is whether these marital assets were all exempt as tenants by entireties assets after the client declares Florida as his primary home.
Asset protection of a jointly held marital asset depends upon the state where the asset is located. Some states, including Florida, protect most marital assets as tenants by entireties assets. Some states do not recognize tenants by entireties ownership. Some states recognize entireties by limit the extent of creditor protection. When a client presents marital assets outside of Florida I have to check the entireties laws of the state where their property is located. The foreign property can be real estate or financial accounts held in local institutions with branches only within the former residence state.
For future reference, here are the jurisdictions that recognize broad tenants by entireties creditor protection of both real property and personal property: Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming, Washington, D.C., and Florida. Generally, jointly owned marital property located in these states is protected from judgment creditors regardless of whether the debtor resides in Florida.