Tenants by Entireties

Jon Alper Tenants By Entireties

In March, 2001, the Florida Supreme Court decided the case of Beal Bank v. Almand where the Court adopted the presumption of tenants by entireties ownership for bank accounts owned jointly by husband and wife. Since then most attorneys assumed that all personal property owned jointly by spouses was presumed tenants by entireties property. This is important because tenants by entireties property is exempt from levy by creditors of either the husband or the wife individually. However there is one bankruptcy opinion which has taken a different view, and which has limited the Beal Bank decision to apply only to bank accounts.

I am referring to the bankruptcy case in the Jacksonville Division In Re McAnany where the court held that Beal Bank created a T by E presumption only as to bank accounts. However, the Supreme Court in Beal Bank specifically stated that, “we conclude that stronger policy considerations favor allowing the presumption in favor of a tenancy by the entireties when a married couple jointly owns personal property.”

The Supreme Court discussed in detail the titling of bank accounts in particular only because that was the only personal property at issue in this case. But the better view is that the Supreme Court wherever possible throughout the opinion made its ruling as to personal property in general, and nowhere in the opinion did the Court specifically restrict is ruling to just one item of personal property, ie, bank accounts. Asset protection planning should continue to assume that any personal as well as real property owned jointly by spouses is presumed to be protected tenants by entireties property.

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