An asset is anything of value owned by an individual. Assets are either real property or personal property. For most people, their only real property asset is their home. Vehicles, furnishings, clothing, jewelry and tools are examples of personal property assets.

Assets have a fair market value-the price a willing seller would take from a willing buyer for the asset. Some assets, such as property, homes and vehicles have a value set by independent appraisers or experts in those fields. By law, assets belong to the owner and no one else has the right to dispose or sell those assets. However, in certain legal situations, the owner's assets can be seized and sold without his consent.

To protect assets from creditors, the owner must divest herself of ownership by transferring the asset or selling the asset and using the funds to purchase property that laws do not allow to be seized. For example, expensive jewelry can be sold and the cash used to buy a home, which is usually exempt.

Sidebar: A creditor is a person or company that is owed money.