A frequent question concerns protection of a debtor’s furniture, cloths, and other property located in the debtor’s primary residence. Personal property located within the homestead is not protected by Florida’s homestead laws which pertain only to real property. Built-in household appliances are usually considered part of the real property and are protected by homestead law. Furniture, electronics, artwork and other movable tangible personal property is not under the umbrella of homestead protection. Personal property owned by a husband and wife may be tenants by entireties property, and if so, it is protected from the creditors of either spouse but not joint creditors. Household furnishings are not “titled” and their ownership is not registered with the government as is real estate and motor vehicles.
The issue I am often asked is what does the individual debtor need to show a court to prove that his household tangible property is owned by the debtor and spouse as tenants by the entireties.All tangible property owned by a husband and wife is presumed to be owned tenants by the entireties as long as it was acquired during the marriage.
Other factual issues courts may consider to determine if household furnishings are owned by the entireties include whether the property paid for with a check from a joint checking account, whether the couple’s estate planning documents leave their household furnishings to the surviving spouse (most do), and whether the household furnishings are insured under a single insurance policy naming both spouses as insured parties. The debtor’s testimony that both spouses participated in the decision to purchase all household furnishings is also evidence of entireties ownership. There are exceptions to the general rule. Each spouse’s cloths and jewelry is probably individual property.