One of the great paradoxes of wealth is that we spend so much effort and creativity working toward success that we sometimes overlook the importance of protecting the wealth we have obtained. We face threats from all corners: Uncle Sam promises to take at least some of our assets; ex-spouses, creditors, and litigants are not far behind. Even our financial advisors and insurance companies—both compensated to protect our assets—linger in a far corner jeopardizing our wealth. But a sound asset protection plan can handle attacks from any direction, reserving sufficient assets to satisfy any valid obligations while leaving the bulk of wealth untouchable. The goal of this book is to provide direct, effective methods of solidifying your fortress so that you can continue your productive efforts without fear of losing what has already been achieved.
The building blocks of a comprehensive asset protection plan include:
·Favorable business entities
·Foreign wealth protection trusts
·Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements
·Leveraging of exempt assets
Obviously, the most effective method of avoiding losses is to conduct personal and business affairs in a manner that does not invite conflict, accusations, or hostility, thereby minimizing your exposure to attacks in the first place. But plenty of real dangers are outside of your control, and this book is designed to address these risks. We start by reviewing the basics of asset protection, taking a look at the entities that hold your assets, and keeping one overarching goal in mind:
Your assets should be held by entities specifically structured to limit the extension of liabilities. On the one hand, you want to protect your personal assets from business liabilities. Flip the coin: You also want to protect your business assets from personal liabilities.
Two Types of Asset Protection
Assets Inside the Business
Assets Outside the Business
Asset protection guards personal assets from business litigation through business structures. For instance, it protects your home from lawsuits brought on by clients.
Asset protection guards personal assets from personal litigation through equity separation. Your home, for instance, is protected from a lawsuit initiated by a car wreck in which you are liable.
Asset protection guards business assets from business litigation through separation. A lawsuit brought on by clients against a product would not reach the structure that employs workers.
Asset protection guards business assets from personal litigation through proper business structures. For instance, during a divorce, your soon-to-be spouse is unable to reach your business holdings.
Considering these two types of asset protection, we work to isolate your personal and professional liabilities, using a combination of entities and structures that segregate, for instance, your home and personal belongings from your business holdings, which are more likely to be subject to creditors or lawsuits. This separation of assets is specifically important for high-risk entrepreneurs and businesspeople such as doctors and developers who, by nature of their jobs, are prone to lawsuits. By considering all the available entities and structuring a complex, multi-tiered and layered system for business and personal holdings, these businesspeople can separate liabilities, thereby impeding lawsuits and stopping creditors in their tracks or, at a minimum, limiting their reach.
Many business owners create corporations to protect their personal assets from business creditors. But how do they protect this corporate stock from business creditors? We often recommend that a client separate these assets even more by placing corporate stock in a trust. The use of a trust protects the business stock from the creditors of the owner’s personal creditors.
The first step in asset protection is to consider the basic protectors of assets and wealth. This involves:
1.Using the right business structure.
2.Leveraging appropriate onshore and offshore trust mechanisms.
3.Maintaining the proper insurance coverage.
4.Leveraging exempt assets.
5.Stripping equity from exposed assets.
This section is dedicated to briefly addressing each of these building blocks of asset protection. Frankly, while a detailed and technical examination of business structures, trust options, and insurance coverage is necessary, discussion of these subjects can make for a dry read. Instead of creating a thousand-page tome, I have opted instead to provide you with enough knowledge to ask the right questions that lead your advisors to create a risk protection plan unique to your needs.