(including risk minimization) to insulate business assets from personal liabilities and personal assets from business liabilities.
Without a robust estate & asset protection plan in place, unexpected events can quickly decimate a lifetime of accomplishments leaving those you love, your business, and your legacy at risk.
In Texas, if you are sued personally (or the corporate veil of one of your entities is pierced) and a judgment is granted against you, your creditors have certain remedies available to them that allow them to reach your personal & business assets to satisfy the judgment.
Any other unpredictable life event – an accident, divorce, incapacity, death, or even a mistake committed by an employee – can result in a claim against you, your company, and your assets. Proper planning and asset structuring help assure that your potential creditors have as few options as the law allows.
By creating levels of separation between assets and services, and using tools such as limited liability companies, trusts, insurance, and well-conceived contracts that specifically define your business relationships and obligations, our attorneys can help you have peace of mind if and when tensions arise and lawsuits are filed.
We regularly advise our clients that a well-conceived asset protection plan seeks to create 3 levels of separation:
1. Separating assets from yourself;
2. Separating assets from each other; and
3. Separating assets from services.
A few key items to consider when evaluating an asset protection strategy include:
Timeliness - The most important thing to know about asset protection is that you must act now, before a liability arises. Attempting to “shelter” or transfer assets after a claim arises is fraud and can bring heavy consequences on you and the professional who helped you make such transfers.
Privacy – Unfortunately, public exposure often makes successful business owners targets for frivolous litigation. Although Wills are the foundation of every estate plan, they are not sufficient alone. Upon death, Wills are filed in the probate court and become public records. A list of your family assets becomes readily available to all. Well-prepared trusts achieve privacy and can avoid probate entirely. Ask your AT Attorney about the cost of a trust vs. the cost of probate.
Formality – When using entities for asset protection, filing the entity with the state is only the first step. To achieve asset protection, you must adhere to the formalities of your entities, including maintaining strict separation of personal funds and business accounts (avoid “commingling”) and keeping accurate meeting minutes and resolutions, among others. Our Entity Maintenance Program helps you maintain your entity’s good standing and liability protections.
Expense – Although Asset Protection Planning involves legal fees, the level of protection and risk mitigation achieved often far outweighs the upfront expenses.