Protecting Your Assets in Florida through Careful Planning
You’ve worked hard for your assets and it’s critically important that you implement the necessary legal techniques to protect those assets from creditors. Many people are unaware of the protection they can garner through the acquisition of assets which are specifically exempt from Florida creditor claims. Legal asset planning can give you peace of mind, knowing your assets will be completely protected. Assets included in Florida’s legal exemption process include:
- Homestead Exemption. Florida considers your home to be safely sheltered from potential creditors, exempting it from levy or execution by judgment creditors. The homestead definition has been liberally expanded to include more than a single family home. In fact, your condo, manufactured home or mobile home has also been afforded homestead protection. If your primary residence contains up to a half an acre within your municipality or any amount of property up to one hundred and sixty acres in a Florida county you qualify for the Florida homestead exemption. Adjoining property may contain lots with separate legal descriptions and tax numbers. Best of all, there is no waiting period for homestead protection—it attaches the day you first occupy the property.
- Many retirement funds qualify for asset protection, including IRA’s, 401k, profit sharing and other pension plans. Florida offers retirement monies both deferred taxation on income but shelter from creditors as well, leading many of those preparing for retirement to direct significant amounts of their affluence into tax-qualified retirement plans and IRA’s. Bear in mind that IRA accounts must be kept in a Florida banking institution in order to be protected under the exemption law.
- The cash value in both life insurance and annuities are protected from creditors’ claims under Florida Statute. Florida courts have been liberal in the statutory exemptions granted to residents regarding private annuities between family members as well as the proceeds of personal injury settlements. The cash value of any life insurance policy owned is also exempt from claims by creditors.
- Unless there has been a judgment against both spouses, the assets owned by husband and wife as tenants by the entirety are protected. While it is commonly believed that joint ownership with rights of survivorship offer protection from creditors, this is incorrect. Tenants by entirety is only available to married persons and must include joint ownership and control, identical interest in the property as well as an interest which commenced simultaneously. The surviving spouse will own the property upon the death of either spouse.
While these forms of asset protection are the most common, those individuals with significant wealth may require more complex planning approaches including irrevocable trusts, offshore trusts or family limited partnerships.
Additional Asset Protection Issues for Consideration
- Residents of Florida are able to take advantage of the auto exemption, protecting as much as $1,000 in their vehicle’s equity (value less loan amount) in their automobile.
- Any real property owned other than the homestead must be considered regarding exemption from creditors.
- Claims incurred in the operation of any business or activity for profit.
- Disability income benefits are exempt from Florida legal process.
- Prepaid college plans are safeguarded from creditors under Florida Statute 222.22.
Don’t be blindsided by creditor claims on your hard-earned assets, rather seek reputable legal advice before you find yourself in trouble. Contact our office for a FREE initial consultation on how to protect your assets-Simply fill out the form below and submit or call us in Jacksonville at (904) 900-2750 or toll free anywhere in Florida at 1-866-306-3550.