I agree that this is not a question that can be answered on a web site. There may be some way to protect yourself from a deficiency judgment, however the way to find out is to consult an asset protection attorney and discuss all the details of your situation with him or her. I am extremely familiar with asset protection, and the one thing I can tell you for sure is that there is no "cookie cutter" approach that is safe to rely on - everything depends on the specific details of your case and your assets. Most real estate attorneys do not do have training in asset protectioin; these are asset protection issues and it is an asset protection expert you need. to speak to.
However, to be clear, if you are at risk for a deficiency judgment, you are likely to have to worry about it for far longer than five years. The creditor has five years after the short sale or foreclosure judgment to BEGIN the process of seeking a deficiency judgment, and then it takes however long for that matter to be resolved. Once the creditor OBTAINS a deficiency judgment, the deficiency judgment has a potential life of 20 YEARS. As I have explained here many times, a deficiency judgment is a very very dangerous matter, and one that will last (and follow you wherever you go) for a very long time. For that reason, I wrote a Legal Guide entitled Deficiency Judgments in Florida after Foreclosures or Short Sales which is located at http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/deficiency-judgments-after-foreclosures-1
Please note that the above is not intended as legal advice, it is for educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is created or is intended to be created hereby. You should contact a local attorney to discuss and to obtain legal advice.
Our firm frequently receives "asset protection" type questions from borrowers and it is difficult to give you a definitive answer based upon the incomplete information that you have provided. This is a situation that screams "go meet with a real estate attorney." There are many strategies that can be employed on a case-by-case basis in order to potentially protect assets from creditors. These strategies may include settling with the creditor, filing bankruptcy, and putting assets into exempt categories such as homestead real estate, IRAs or life insurance.
Go sit down with someone . . .the only bad thing about these questions and answer forums online is that people ask questions get answers and then ask more questions. Eventually folks have to take some defensive action. Not picking on you lots of people do it. It is just that if 3 or 15 attorneys all tell you the same thing free of charge...its probably good advice.