A husband and wife can own property in a form known as Tenancy by the Entirety. It is similar to owning property as joint tenants with right of survivorship, except for one feature. A judgment against one spouse does not attach to property owned as tenants by the entirety, whereas a judgment against one owner who is not married to another owner would attach to the owner’s interest in the property.
To be classified as Tenancy by the Entirety, property must be acquired while the couple is married, and they must remain married continuously. If a couple buys a home before they are married, and then they later marry, this type of tenancy is not automatically created. The couple must actually execute a new deed to themselves after marriage in order to accomplish the protection. If they divorce, the tenancy by the entirety is destroyed, and is not reinstated by remarriage.
When a married couple buys real property (a home, vacant land, or any other real estate) Tenancy by the Entirety is automatic unless the deed states otherwise. Normally, there is a designation that the couple is married on the deed (like “husband and wife”), although that technically is not required.
Quite some years ago, if a married couple owned a bank account, tenancy by the entirety was not automatic. Thus, a creditor of one spouse could access the account unless it specifically said “as tenants by the entirety.” This language usually did not appear. However, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled that when a husband and wife own a bank account, there is a presumption that it is owned as tenants by the entirety, just like real property has always been treated.
That case dealt only with bank accounts, so the protection does not apply to brokerage accounts, mutual funds, and other accounts that are not accounts in banks. One can own any type of asset as tenants by the entirety, but must add the specific words to have that protection.
Attorney Michael A. Pyle, of Pyle, Dellinger & Duz, PLLC, 1655 North Clyde Morris Blvd., Suite 1, Daytona Beach, Florida, 32117 Telephone: 386. 615.9007. E-mail: mikep@pylelegal .com or website: www.pylelegal.com