Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Will Your Asset Protection Strategy Survive The Final Judgment?
Did you know that... we live in a lawsuit-crazy society? I'll bet you do know that. And I bet you also know that court judgments are getting more and more outrageous all the time. Unless you have some sort of asset protection strategy already set up, whatever assets you have built up can be wiped out from a lawsuit that does not go your way. Asset protection is a means for protecting your valuables from future lawsuits and creditor collection attempts. While many people are looking for a solid way to do this, there are many ways where the asset protection options that they try are not going to work. But, there are asset protection strategies that really do work. What you want to do is to search out the right ones and use them effectively. Asset protection, or more precisely having an asset protection strategy, is something that many more people should take advantage of. What I plan to do in this article is to help you not take the wrong path n your asset protection strategy. The first thing to do is to have your asset protection strategy in place before you get involved in a lawsuit. I know, how do you know if and/or when you are going to be involved in a lawsuit? You don't. But,you don't want to wait until you are being sued. If you are involved in a lawsuit and a judgment is placed against you, don't try to "sell" everything to your spouse or cousin or business partner for something like $1. If you start to arrange your assets to avoid them being taken after the fact of a court judgment, then that is like "closing the barn door after the horses have escaped". It is too late. That would be deemed illegal and is known as a "fraudulent transfer". The court will recognize the transfer for what it is, an asset protection trick to try to keep your assets out of the hands of your creditors. The "sale" would be reversed by the court and the assets would have to be given to the creditor anyway. By the way, there are also other things to be wary of when involving a spouse, another family member or relative or even a business associate in an asset protection scheme. If it is found that your scheme was in violation of the Fraudulent Transfer Act then you could not only lose the assets that you were trying to protect, but there is the additional money the you would lose in court costs, attorney fees and the costs involved in collecting the debt. Also, your "accomplice" could have a judgment entered against him or her. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you involve another person in your asset protection strategy by "selling" them your assets for a few dollars, the assets would legally belong to the other person and they would be able to do what they want with those assets. It has occurred only too often that the new recipient of the assets has turned around and handled the assets in a manner that benefits them, leaving the original owner with nothing. Even though you trust somebody today, you never know what will happen in the future. So, in this case we can say, "Let the seller beware!" One more point about "getting rid" of your assets through sale to your spouse: In the United States, if you live in a "community property" state then everything that is owned by you during the time of the marriage is also owned by your spouse and vice-versa. So, transferring ownership to a spouse in a "community property" state does not help your asset protection strategy and does not protect you from creditors. The current community property states are: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. One asset protection strategy that does work and has been known to work very well is offshore asset protection trust or APT. Here the assets are protected from lawsuits because they are in oversea territories and therefore untouchable in most cases. Of course, it is important to take note of applicable fraudulent transfer rules as well. As in most asset protection strategies, timing is very important. Another asset protection strategy that has been shown to be very successful is offshore incorporation and offshore bank accounts. There are many benefits for incorporating offshore. Legally limiting the amount of taxes you pay on your income, and protecting your business against lawsuits are just a few of the ways an offshore corporation or IBC can benefit your asset protection efforts. Forming an offshore corporation need not be any more expensive or time consuming than forming a corporation within your own country. Be sure to use a legitimate and established firm when setting up your IBC. Make sure your asset protection needs are being handled in the way you want and that you get answers to all your questions. Keeping with the asset protection theme of protecting your wealth from lawsuits, the offshore bank account will also help address this issue. Most companies that offer offshore incorporation will also help you set up an offshore bank account. It would be a good idea to keep the account in non-US funds. The accounts are usually offered with an international debit card, so you can access your funds from an ATM wherever you have access to one. In conclusion... Laws are different from country to country, and from state to state. You need to get professional advice from a competent financial advisor as the first move. Do not wait until you are already in financial trouble because then it would be too late. If you transfer assets in order to put them out of reach of your creditors at that time, it may be seen as fraudulent and illegal. You need to have an asset protection strategy in place before you are sued, and before anyone tries to take your assets away. It is never too early to get a plan in place. Just remember the old expression, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Do it NOW!