Monroe County, Florida Asset Protection
When most people hear the phrase ‘asset protection,’ many think of divorce law. However, its most common application is in the area of bankruptcy. Florida’s asset protection laws are some of the most debtor-friendly in the nation, but they still must be navigated and understood, and for that, having a legal professional on your side can make a big difference. The Silver Law Group is experienced and ready to assist you in protecting what is yours.
Florida’s Asset Protection Laws
While laws on asset protection differ from state to state, Florida’s are extremely forgiving. Unlike many states, Florida extends asset protection laws even to those who are not full-time residents of the state. However, you must either have a part-time domicile (temporary home) or your primary residence in the state to qualify for protection.
The state’s Constitution sets out what is perhaps the single biggest asset to debtors: Florida’s famous homestead exemption. According to Article X, Section 4, if you have owned your property for more than 1,215 days, and it is less than half an acre (within a municipality) or 160 acres (not in any municipality), you may claim its entire value in exemption. In most states, the exemptions are strictly limited. This is incredibly advantageous to debtors because then they can use other exemptions for personal property instead of being forced to use them to try and preserve some value in their home.
The other major category of asset protection laws are statutory exemptions, carved out over time by the Florida legislature. The major categories are:
Salary and Wages
These are exempt from garnishment for the head of the household (not to be confused with the head of household for tax purposes). This exemption can be waived, but it must be done in writing. Sometimes it will be done as part of an agreement with a lender or other financial institution.
Life Insurance Policies and Financial Planning Products
Florida Statute 222.14 states that while a Florida resident is alive, any cash value in these entities is exempt from any creditor’s claims. However, death benefits are not exempt, so when the policyholder passes on, the proceeds may be garnished if need be.
Pensions and Profit-Sharing Income
It is considered ‘against public policy’ to garnish or otherwise seize disability income.
Other miscellaneous exemptions
This includes an automobile exemption (though Florida’s is one of the lowest in the country at only $1,000), medical savings accounts, and unemployment benefits.
Wide Applications Require Expertise
Asset protection is a big part of divorce law, as previously mentioned, but also bankruptcy and estate planning. Some dismiss it as paranoia, but when you have assets you have worked hard for, the idea of losing them in divorce or through bankruptcy is frightening and frustrating in the extreme.
Do not hesitate to take steps to protect what you have. If you need help, it is best to call in a professional. The experienced asset protection attorneys at the Silver Law Group have a long and successful record of ensuring their clients’ possessions and inheritances are well protected. Contact our Islamorada office today to discuss your options.