So far in our discussion of the Delaware Statutory Trust (DST), we’ve hit on the basics you need to know about the structure and some deeper nuances about regulatory and tax implications for California investors. But you may still have questions about this lesser-known tool. Here are some of the most common ones we get, and, of course, their answers.
Expensive is always a relative term. The simple truth is how expensive your DST is will depend on who forms it, what if any special details your asset protection plan must account for, and whether services like property transfers are included or sold separately. As a general rule, it is true that this entity has un upfront cost similar to or higher than a Series LLC, but you do receive something for the extra expenses. The many benefits of the DST structure include some the Series LLC doesn’t. For instance, we often recommend that Series LLC owners also make use of Anonymous Land Trusts. But for DST owners, land trusts would be a redundancy. Which costs and possible uses will affect you most? Speak with an expert familiar with your circumstances to know for sure.
California’s tax law can become a profit-syphon for real estate investors with assets in the state. While investors in most states can take advantage of LLCs and Series LLCs as primary asset protection tools, Californians are better suited for the DST largely because of the state’s franchise tax. LLCs, Corporations, and other types of companies must pay $800 per entity in annual franchise taxes.
The Delaware Statutory Trust, however, isn’t included among the structures that must pay this burden. Rather, because DSTs are more correctly classified as estate planning tools, and therefore need not meet the same requirements as traditional companies. But the savvy investor can still use this tool in a manner similar to the Series LLC for highly effective asset protection, all while dodging the tax obligations of the Series LLC. Perfectly legally, of course!
Well, this is where things get fun. The answer is simple: however many assets you have.
And each of those assets is compartmentalized for optimal protection. That means if a would-be-litigant tries to come for your trust-owned property, they’ll have an extra difficult time. Because the DST is such an excellent anonymity tool when set up appropriately by an experienced asset protection attorney, even connecting you to the property in question becomes a chore.
In practice, many asset protection tools are effective because they throw up roadblocks to stall out the lawsuit process. In our experience, a properly established DST stops lawsuits before they’re even filed.
You can, sure. But it may or may not be the best structure for you. Again, the only person who should be calling the shots on asset protection structures is the legal expert of your choosing. The DST may be a great choice for you regardless, particularly if you are doing business in California.
But if you’re outside of the state with no interests there, there’s an alternative that works for a broad range of investors. The anonymity, asset protection, and operational benefits offered by the DST can be duplicated with other tools. To be precise, the Series LLC combined with Anonymous Land Trusts is a system that offers top-notch protection to investors in all other U.S. states. If you have multiple properties, investigate the Series LLC first. It uses that same parent-child structure that makes compartmentalization a snap with the DST. Anonymous Land Trusts can easily disguise company and property ownership--they go hand in hand with the Series LLC. These tools together will offer the same powers, and perhaps additional benefits, to real estate investors or business owners in other states.
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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