Legal matters, business strategy, and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.
Asset Protection is a type of planning intended to safeguard one’s assets from creditor claims.
Aaaaaand most of you have already tuned out.
That’s the challenge.
It’s really difficult to write about complex legal topics in a way that makes sense.
I mean… Creditor? Safeguard?
They aren’t quite on the level of, “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobic” (the fear of long words).
We don’t use those words in our daily life, so when the brain reads them it has a tendency to shut down.
I guess that’s why I’m here.
Please don’t absquatulate, I resolve to disambiguate this axiom.
Let’s Try Again
Asset Protection is a type of planning that helps you protect your assets from someone trying to get them.
So… A bank vault provides asset protection?
Well, yes. But that’s not the kind of Asset Protection I’m talking about.
I’m talking about Asset Protection in the world of lawyers, judges, and juries.
So tell me, who would try to come after your assets by using lawyers, judges, and juries?
Someone that’s suing you would, right!?
Right… But Kelton, I’m a good person. I’m not going to get sued. So does that mean I can stop reading?
There are over 100 million new cases opened in the United States each year (fun fact: that’s over 95% of the WORLD’S lawsuits). Out of those, how many times do you think the person getting sued said, “Yeah. This isn’t a surprise. I’m a bad person. I was planning on getting sued.”
Probably not too many.
GOOD people get sued all the time in this country. Life happens. Mistakes happen.
Asset protection is about putting your assets – your cash, your investments, your property – inside the right vehicles so that even if you make a mistake, nobody can take them!
Wait, what? Are you saying there are places I can put my money so that – no matter what happens – people cannot sue me and take it?
Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.
Asset Protection Vehicles
Here are some basic Asset Protection vehicles to be aware of:
Homestead: In Wisconsin, each single individual is protected for up to $75,000 of home equity. For a married couple, this means $150,000 of home equity is “untouchable”.
Life Insurance / Annuity Contracts: In Wisconsin, each single individual is protected for up to $150,000 of cash value in life insurance and annuity contracts. For a married couple, this means $300,000 of cash value is “untouchable”.
Retirement Benefits: In Wisconsin, effectively ALL value that is allocated to qualified retirement accounts (401k, IRA, Pension, Disability Benefits, Profit Sharing Plans) is protected.
Irrevocable Trusts: In Wisconsin, effectively ALL assets that are gifted / sold / held by an irrevocable trust are protected.
There are many other strategies that can be utilized, but explanation of those strategies requires too many big words.
Regardless, the point has been made.
When something sounds too good to be true, it usually means there is a catch.
This time, the catch is fairly straightforward: You cannot move assets around after you have committed the act that leads to a potential lawsuit.
Meaning, you can’t hit someone with your car, and then transfer all your assets into an irrevocable trust. It doesn’t work that way.
You need to do things ahead of time. Just like you can’t buy a better homeowner’s policy after your house burns down.
Common Asset Protection Clients
These are the people who are most likely to be the target of a lawsuit, and therefore benefit the most from diligent asset protection planning:
- Medical Professionals
- Financial Professionals
- Recipients of Large Inheritances
- Business Owners
- Signors of Personal Guarantees
- Officers of Public Companies
- Owners of Boats, Airplanes, etc.
- Real Estate Investors
- Independent Contractors
- Wealthy Spouses
- Children of Wealthy Individuals
When you put together an asset protection plan with Epiphany Law, you get an expert opinion on where you should put your assets to achieve maximum protection.
Better yet, you get a list of action items and a due date for completion.
We say, “Hey, Mr. Client. In the coming year you should focus on putting the maximum amount possible in your fully protected 401k and IRA account. Then next year, you should come back and meet with us about creating an irrevocable trust to put your family cottage in.”
Nobody can do everything all at once. But everyone can take palatable, bite-sized steps toward protecting more of their assets.
Give us a call or shoot me an email if you have more specific questions!
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