By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
December 8, 2015
9 Ways to Protect Your Assets
If you’re like most people, you’ve spent a lifetime building up your assets. You don’t want all of your hard work to go down the drain because you neglected to create a smart estate plan or set up protections to keep your assets safe.
This is especially important if you have managed to attain a significant amount of wealth or own a business, because you are at higher risk for legal action. To protect your assets from issues such as lawsuits and bankruptcy, it is crucial that you use the right legal protections.
Here are a few steps you can take.
- Carry an adequate liability insurance policy. Ensure that your personal umbrella liability policy covers an amount that’s at least equal to your net-worth. You can expect to pay between $200 and $300 per $1 million of coverage. This is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
- Get the right business insurance. If you own a business, you need a policy. The type of coverage you need depends on the type of business you run. For instance, if you own rental property, your policy will be different than someone who runs a retail store.
- Make it official with business partners. Many people function in informal arrangements with business partners, but do this and you may be held personally liable for the actions of the other person. Protect yourself. Make it formal by setting up a business entity.
- Choose the right business entity. When you’re ready to make it formal, make sure you select the right entity for your situation. If you function as a sole proprietor or partnership, your personal assets are still exposed to legal action. By setting up an S corporation or limited liability company (LLC), you can reduce or avoid personal liability.
- Review joint accounts. You may need to create a jointly held account with your spouse, but there is a risk to doing so. In the event that the other individual files for divorce, faces a lawsuit or tax lien, or a judgment is entered against both spouses, you could lose all the money in that account.
- Set up retirement accounts. Both Federal and Florida law protect these accounts. In Florida, qualified retirement accounts are exempt from creditors. This would include life insurance, IRAs, and annuities.
- Set up an irrevocable trust. You can transfer assets into a properly crafted irrevocable trust run by a trustee or multiple trustees. If structured and administered properly, this will create good distance between your assets and your creditors. As a result, creditors will have great difficulty coming after these assets, while you continue to benefit from them.
- Transfer assets into your spouse’s name. If you are in a high-risk profession and your spouse is not, it may make sense to strategically put certain assets in your spouse’s name. This way, if you face a legal action, they are not on the table unless a judgment is entered against him or her, too.
- Take advantage of homestead exemptions. In Florida, the ultimate asset protection is your homestead primary residence. There are location and size limitations, but whatever portion qualifies for homestead is afforded great protection from creditors as well as protection from increased taxes.
Of course, the best course of action is working with an experienced estate and business planning attorney. He or she can assess your specific financial situation and recommend the best steps to protect your assets, your family, and your business.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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