Life is full of surprises. Although many of us have optimized the legal structures that protect our assets, we never know when and where a claim may arise. This uncertainty leads to more and more business and property owners to ask themselves what would happen if someone sued them personally. Are my company and my assets protected?
What is Asset Protection?
Asset protection is taking advance, legal measures to delay, deter or completely avoid the attachment or levy of your property by a judgment holder. In other words, making it harder and sometimes ultimately impossible, for your assets to be liened or taken by someone who sues you personally, wins and tries to collect on their judgment. (This is distinguished from legal measures intended to limit your personal liability as a business or property owner, which are also important to reduce the chances of suffering a personal judgment in the first place.)
Why do I need it?
Traditionally, the impetus for these concerns has been exposure to high-risk business activities such as real estate rental or professional services (e.g. physicians), or simply an increase in wealth and correspondingly feeling like one might become a target for unforeseeable and exaggerated personal injury or harassment lawsuits where insurance coverage is unavailable, denied or simply insufficient.
Isn’t there some sort of magic trust or fantasy island where no one can ever reach my assets?
No, but there are in fact numerous legal maneuvers one can make to better protect their assets, but what one can do, when and how is determined on an asset by asset basis, taking into account all the relevant personal circumstances. For example, protecting one’s ownership interest in a business involves issues distinct from protecting ownership in real estate. The pros, cons, costs and effectiveness of the various tactics must be carefully evaluated before making an informed decision of what to implement. Moreover, improperly planned asset transfers or conversions can actually make it easier for someone to collect against the asset and/or impose liability on third parties involved in the transfer.
So how can you help me protect my assets?
Developing effective asset protection strategies therefore is a process that can be divided into distinct Evaluation and Implementation phases. The Evaluation phase takes at least one to two hours but sometimes requires much more time to complete, depending on the size and complexity of one’s portfolio and the details of their personal and business circumstances. Collaboration with accountants, financial advisors and insurance professionals is essential. The Evaluation phase concludes with a custom tailored and personalized strategy for each asset. Once these strategies have been communicated to and approved by the client, the Implementation phase that follows can involve the formation, recapitalization, conversion or dissolution of various business entities, creation and funding of different types of trusts, reallocation of liquid investments, formalization of existing financial arrangements, pre and post marital planning, estate planning, and much more. Our clients’ asset portfolios range from just a home and personal savings to large portfolios including multiple business interests, real estate investments, intellectual property, artwork, yachts, aircraft, inheritances, etc. That is why we have extensive experience dealing with a wide range of circumstances.
My situation is not that complex/I just need some quick advice.
For those business and property owners who are not accustomed to regular checkups with an experienced business and wealth preservation lawyer, this can seem a bit overwhelming. If you just want some quick advice, we provide flat rate “Diagnostic Consultations” where Ed Arista performs an informal evaluation in up to two (2) hours of time and provides preliminary recommendations. Some of these recommendations may be immediately implementable by the asset owner while others should be completed by an attorney with the relevant expertise. The recommendations are all designed to provide better asset protection, but as a byproduct we often identify other beneficial action items involving overlapping legal areas such as commercial law, estate planning, real estate and taxation. More extensive evaluations can be performed on an hourly basis with a minimum advance retainer.
I just want speak with or meet Mr. Arista in person before asking for his advice.
No problem. Hiring a lawyer is an important decision. We never charge a fee to discuss our fee structure, experience and credentials, so you can better determine whether we are the right attorney for you.
Where can I learn more on my own?
First of all, beware of advice from non-attorneys and never engage in self diagnosis and treatment based on what you might have heard at a seminar or read in a book or on the internet. Visit our Blog for archived articles and for periodic updates and discussion on various legal topics of interest to business and property owners.
Do you need help with asset protection?
Contact us at 305-444-7662 or e-mail Ed@AristaLaw.com to schedule a confidential meeting in person, over the phone or via videoconference to learn more about how our multidisciplinary team of attorneys and accountants can help.
More than 20 years helping American and multinational families reduce their tax burden, protect their businesses and assets from legal risks, and plan for the eventual transfer of their wealth.