Tenants By Entireties Bank Accounts Made Easier By A Modified Banking Statute

Generally, Florida’s creditor exemptions are expressed in Chapter 222 of the Florida Statutes. The Chapter’s sections list Florida’s premier asset protection exemptions including the exemptions afforded wages, retirement funds and annuities. Sometimes the legislature makes important asset protection changes in various other parts of the Statutes.

A few years ago Florida changed part of its banking law statutes making it easier to for individual debtors to protect tenants by entireties bank accounts. Section 655.79 (1) provides that any joint bank account, including a CD, owned by husband and wife is a tenants by entireties account.

It does not matter any more whether your bank offers tenants by entireties account labels or even if the bank understands entireties accounts. It does not matter whether the spouses were married when they opened their joint account, or whether one spouse opened the account before marriage and added their spouse to the same account after the wedding. It does not matter if your account title is owned husband OR wife versus husband AND wife. None of these types of issues  matters according to a reasonable interpretation of this statute.

The bank account will not be an entireties account if the debtor and spouse indicated somewhere in writing that they want a different type of account. Also, the strong presumption of entireties ownership applicable to bank accounts does not apply to personal property such as brokerage accounts and vehicles. Other than marital bank accounts there are many technical traps in establishing entireties ownership of personal property.

 

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