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What causes retirement assets to be protected are alienation provisions. Alienation provisions restrict access to funds by owner absent payment of penalty. For example accessing IRA funds prior to 59 and a half years of age. Hence if direct IRA or insurance equity funds have alienation provisions preventing access without paying a penalty they will be alienated from creditors the same as they are alienated from owner this is what protects the asset in bankruptcy or from foreclosure. Alienation provisions are good in this context. Hence if you can withdraw funds without penalty even the you are under 59 then they will be exposed to creditors.
No. Surrender penalties are when you make an early withdrawl from a CD. It is not because of age but contractual limitation.