Articles Tagged with Middle District of Florida

Section § 522(b)(3) of the Bankruptcy Code allows an individual debtor to fully exempt any interest in property that the debtor owns as tenant by the entirety provided that such interest is exempt under state law. It is well established that under Florida law property held by husband and wife as tenants by the entireties belongs to neither spouse individually. Therefore, it is exempt from process to satisfy debts owed to individual creditors of either spouse. Entireties property is not exempt from process to satisfy joint debts of both spouses. Thus, a Florida debtor filing an individual bankruptcy petition can fully exempt tenancy by the entirety property as long as there is no joint debt with the non-filing spouse.

There are six characteristics that joint property must possess in order to be held as tenancy by the entirety: (1) unity of possession (joint ownership and control); (2) unity of interest (the interests in the account must be identical); (3) unity of title (the interests must have originated in the same instrument); (4) unity of time (the interests must have commenced simultaneously); (5) survivorship; and (6) unity of marriage (the parties must be married at the time the property became titled in their joint names). In summary, most joint property acquired during a marriage will be considered tenancy by the entirety property, and fully exempt in bankruptcy, so long as the debtor and non-filing spouse do not have any joint debt.

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Shortly after her murder acquittal, Casey Anthony filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in the Middle District of Florida in January of 2013. According to her bankruptcy schedules, Anthony’s total amount of debt was close to $800,000; most of which were attorney fees. She listed that she was unemployed, and claimed about $1,000 of total assets.

In a normal Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, a trustee is appointed to administer the bankruptcy estate. Pursuant to section 541 of the Bankruptcy Code, the bankruptcy estate consists of all legal and equitable interests of the debtor in property at the time of the bankruptcy filing. State law then allows a debtor to exempt, or keep, a certain amount of property from the bankruptcy estate. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy the Debtor would then have a choice to either surrender his or her non-exempt assets, or to buy them back from the bankruptcy estate. Since Casey Anthony had very few assets, most of her property would have been exempt. She would eventually receive her discharge of her debt, while paying very little back to the bankruptcy trustee.

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