"Asset protection" may conjure up images of top hat-wearing, cigar-chomping billionaires, but you don't have to be rich to preserve your wealth. You just have to make sure you don't lose what wealth you've earned so far. You especially don't want to lose money due to something unnecessary, such as a lawsuit.
And that's exactly what an asset protection specialist can help you accomplish. By separating your assets and making your holdings anonymous, you'll never have to worry about another lawsuit again. And that's exactly what we're going to talk about today.
A real estate investor who does not use some kind of entity to own their property is risking everything to a single lawsuit. Even worse, if that investor has entered into partnerships with other investors they likely used a general partnership (a handshake.) From an attorney’s point of view this ownership structure is a beautiful opportunity because it exposes the investor. This means a judgement against the investor could take everything.
Chances are that you have already heard about using an LLC (limited liability company) for asset protection. By forming and operating an LLC properly, assets you place in the LLC are separated from your personal name. If a lawsuit happens, the judgement is limited to the assets within the LLC. Not only does this mean you are risking less in a worst-case scenario, but it also means you are less likely to face that scenario. Why? People will have less incentive to sue you, since you are limiting the potential earnings they could take.
Take a scenario where someone initiates a lawsuit and you lose, but you hold that property in an LLC. The lawsuit would only impact the assets within the LLC. While you could lose that single property to a lawsuit, it is a much better option than losing the property AND your personal assets. The cost of forming an LLC protects your house and other assets from landing in a future settlement or judgement. And this protection scales for investors with large portfolios utilizing entities such as the series LLC.
Setting up an LLC can take anywhere between a few weeks to a couple months, depending on whether the state approves the name you select for your LLC. Once the LLC is formed you will receive an EIN and can set up a bank account. This allows you to operate the LLC separate from your personal finances. You will balance all collections and expenses through the LLC bank account, proving it can operate on its own. When tax season comes around, most people simply have the LLC function file as a pass-through entity.
We have talked about LLCs and the protections they give you when it comes to lawsuits and money-hungry attorneys. But what you might not know is how you can benefit from using LLCs and trusts at the same time.
Did you know that you can actually use trusts to own LLCs? And since trusts are private documents, nobody will be able to find out who owns the trust, or who the beneficiary of the trust is. (You would be the beneficiary.)
What this means is you can own an LLC anonymously. And yes, you can do a lot to hide ownership of an LLC without a trust. But anytime you put a property in an LLC, you're creating a back door for lawyers to walk through and take your assets.
How? Because every property comes with a deed. Your name will be on that deed (most likely).
But when you have a trust you can put the trust on the deed instead of your name and then put that property in an LLC. Nobody will be able to connect your property to your company. And nobody will be able to figure out who owns your company or who owns your trust because the trust is a private document.
So let me break this down for you real quick. To achieve total asset protection first you establish a trust. Then you file an LLC. After doing both of those you then buy a property using the trust and put said property in your LLC. End of story. Now you have total asset protection.
Are you interested in learning more about other asset protection plans? Our free resources are here for you to learn more about asset protection plans. And always remember, if you want to preserve your wealth, don't put all your eggs (properties) in one basket (a traditional LLC).
Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.
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