Last year, I wrote an article about “What to Expect When You Start Your Own Business” that has since generated quite a few emails and questions from several readers, some of them, close friends and colleagues also willing to share their own experience and input with me.
Most people associate the term “asset protection” with something that only the “rich and wealthy” need to worry about. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Today, I wanted to touch on another subject that may potentially affect not just a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs, but also all individuals or families that have worked diligently and responsibly throughout their lives to increase their net worth; the topic is how to protect your assets. That’s right, this is another subject often misunderstood and frequently ignored, but the consequences could be devastating. Based on my own informal survey of other successful business professionals, it seems like most people associate the term “asset protection” with something that only the “rich and wealthy” need to worry about. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
But better than writing the article myself, I’ve invited my friend Douglass Lodmell, Managing Partner at Lodmell & Lodmell, P.C, one of the nation’s leading Asset Protection Law Firms so that he could share his expertise and advice with all of us.
The article below is brief and to the point so that you can assess your own situation and decide whether you need some type of asset protection plan in place. MGR is a current client of Lodmell & Lodmell law firm and I can only speak from my own great experience working with them. As always, if you are interested in learning more about this topic, you can always contact me or in this particular case, you can also contact Douglass Lodmell directly at his law firm. His contact information is at the bottom of this article.
If you have ever been in, or even been near a lawsuit you know that it is only just slightly less wretched than war, death or divorce, and sometimes more devastating! This means that if you have accumulated anything that you would consider an asset, it is worth knowing how to protect it. Here are the 5 things you need to know:
1) Some of your assets are already protected! Know and understand which assets these are. They might include your home (or a portion of the equity), your retirement account, your life insurance cash value and even some of the assets you need to make a living. In some cases these ‘exemptions’ may more than cover you. For example, if you have a home in Arizona worth $475,000 with a mortgage of $375,000 and a retirement plan with $312,000 in it, then you are already protected by state and federal exemptions. On the other hand if you have a home that is paid for worth the same amount, and a brokerage account with the same balance, but which is not in a qualified plan, then you are virtually unprotected. Find out where you stand! Just knowing will make a big difference in your life.
2) Know and understand your real risk profile. How likely are you to really be sued? If you are a doctor or medical professional then you already know that your lawsuit risk is high. However, if you are a small business owner with 4 employees, you probably didn’t realize that your risk is actually even higher! This is because the fastest growing area of lawsuits today are related to employees and running a business. If you are in construction, healthcare, client service, rental services or any other area with a responsibility for your clients, then you cannot ignore the risk that those closest to you present the greatest threat. Don’t be afraid, just informed. Know you risk and plan accordingly.
3) Understand the limits of Insurance. Insurance is great, but is only a partial solution. Insurance focuses on various types of liability and attempts to insure against just those risks. These include accidents, errors and omissions, malpractice, negligence, etc. all of which need their own separate policy. Insurance is both valuable and useful; however, it simply cannot cover every type of risk. Additionally, there are a list of exemptions and exclusions inside the policy, even for your covered risks. For example, negligence may be covered, but gross negligence excluded. This is a fine distinction and not always a clear line, which leaves open the possibility that you could be fighting both the underlying claim, and your own insurance carrier for coverage.
4) You can Protect Your Assets! An entire area of law has developed with specific legal tools that cover the asset themselves not just the risk. These tools include Limited Liability Companies, Family Limited Partnerships and most powerfully the Asset Protection Trust. Done timely and properly you can protect virtually all your assets, even from an otherwise catastrophic risk. This is true even with a run away U.S. court, jury or judge when using the International version of the Asset Protection Trust. This Trust is capable of moving your assets offshore at a moments notice. Ignore these powerful tools at your own peril if you are serious about protecting what you have.
5) Don’t wait! All of the above are effective options, but only if they are in place BEFORE you have a threat. Buying insurance, or setting up an asset protection plan works, but they must be in effect before you have the problem. Imaging calling your insurance agent after your house is on fire. How much coverage do you think you will get? The same is true for Asset Protection. Establishing the tools and placing your assets such as your home and savings in them before you have a problem ensures that the planning will work. Waiting to see, when it comes to Asset Protection is never a good plan.
You first step is to answer for yourself the above questions. The best source of information is to have a review done by a qualified Asset Protection Attorney who is capable of telling you what is already protected, helping you to assess your real risk and proscribing an appropriate Asset Protection solution designed for you. Knowledge is power and this is one area of your life that is worth you taking the time to be powerful.Douglass S. Lodmell, J.D., LL.M. is the Managing Partner of Lodmell & Lodmell, P.C., the nation’s leading Asset Protection Law firm. His firm protects over 3,500 clients and over $4.5 Billion in assets. He can be reached at 800-231-7112 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lodmell.com.