Asset Protection: Questions on Protecting Your Assets
Estate Planning and Protecting Your Assets
Asset protection is one of the most important things you can do. The planning is a method of preparing for any possible lawsuits in the future. It entails rearranging the ownership of your current assets so that they cannot be touched by creditors during a lawsuit. Asset protection can also act as a form of supplementary insurance. It can protect you from the various risks that can be associated with professions and businesses. Generally speaking, asset protection is used to safe-guard your assets that would be at risk. There are different degrees of asset protection. Typically, the more complex the planning is, the more effective it will be in the future. However, even though complex planning can offer you the best protection, it is also very expensive and there are more restrictions involved.
Do You Need an Expert on Asset Protection Planning?
If you have assets that require you to plan your estate if you die, then you probably have enough assets to strongly consider an asset protection plan. It is important to protect these assets from lawsuits that could occur before your death. The decision is entirely personal and is based on risk aversion, your asset level and the level of protection you need. There are very few levels of protection that as you may imagine, have a correlated cost to set up, but it is a very personalized product and a professional needs to assess all of these factors when making a recommendation.
What Assets Can Be Protected?
Asset protection involves exempt property that is considered unreachable by creditors. Each state has its own unique laws that define what exempt property is. Some properties can be entirely exempt, while others may be limited. Some common examples of exempt property include clothing and jewelry, tools of a trade or a business and household furnishings. In some cases, life insurance and social security may be classified as exempt property. But there is no reason to risk laws changing in your particular state; an asset protection plan should take these potential risks into consideration.
If your property is not exempt, you should consider an asset protection plan attorney. This simple plan would transfer the property from you to an irrevocable trust. By transferring ownership of valuable assets to a trust, you will protect those assets from creditors. This transfer will protect your assets while you are living and will also protect them from a tax collector when you die. There are some disadvantages associated with these transfers which include the new owner’s exposure to creditors, your personal loss of control over the particular asset that was transferred and any gif tax consequences that result from the transfer.
Are My Retirement Assets Protected from Creditors?
If your assets are held in a retirement plan, the federal law will not allow creditors to reach those assets. Some examples of assets that are protected by a retirement plan include profit sharing, pensions and 401(k) plans. IRA’s may not be protected. You will need to check the laws in your state to see if your IRA is legally protected from creditors.
How You Can Protect Your Assets When Starting a Business
If your new business is not incorporated or held within an LLC with the shareholders being an irrevocable trust, you will place your personal and business assets at risk. Any claims that are made against the business could result in the loss of assets; personal or business-related. There are different tools that can help protect your assets when starting a business.
Partnerships and Trusts
Family limited partnerships have been deemed one of the available asset protection devices. While this is effective, it is not foolproof unless an irrevocable trust is the general partner. Many states allow limited liability companies to be formed, and they are also viewed as a great ownership form when considering asset protection. It is very difficult for any creditor to reach any assets that have been transferred using these devices if the membership shares are in the name of a trust.
Asset protection is ethical and legal as long as the plan is put in place before a lawsuit is filed. It may be too late if there is already a claim or a lawsuit pending. Asset transfers during this time could be considered fraud. More specifically, fraudulent conveyance is where someone divests themselves of assets without fair consideration because they see a problem arising and would like to avoid paying a claim. However, a few highly sophisticated firms have ways of legally transferring assets in distressed times with a financial instrument to avoid problems with fraudulent conveyance.Please contact Estate Street Partners if you are seeking counseling to legally transfer your assets in distressed times and still avoid fraudulent conveyance. Each will be taken on a case by case basis. Estate Street Partners will never condone illegal practices and advocates transparent accounting and legal practices.