Abusive Tax Schemes Often Cause Confusion in the Asset Protection Planning Arena

When clients come to see me for asset protection planning, it is clear that the client has preconceived notions about offshore trusts that are integral to some type of abusive tax shelters or other nefarious activity. This is not surprising. The media recently reported about a man from Niagara Falls, NY who was sentenced to 36 months in prison for selling and promoting an abusive tax shelter scheme that involved offshore trusts and domestic trusts. It is stories like this one that confuse many clients and give them unnecessary concerns about what asset protection planning is all about. As I always tell my clients, the asset protection planning we do for our clients is not designed to shelter income or avoid the payment of income taxes; instead it utilizes legitimate structures with the simple goal of helping these clients legally position their assets in a way which makes them less vulnerable to creditors.

Many clients come to me with very real concerns about existing or potential future creditors. They realize that the nature of their job or lifestyle places them at risk of a catastrophic judgment which could wipe out their assets. Others come to me simply because they know that the world is an uncertain place, litigation abounds and have heard enough stories to make them want to be protected from the unknown.

The wealthy have long recognized that they are a natural target for those less fortunate and looking for a score. Regardless of the reasons, I always welcome the opportunity to help clients better understand the true nature of their exposure, provide some perspective for their anxiety and discuss the development and implementation of an asset protection plan that will meet their needs.

It is always the case that the earlier in the process I am able to meet with a client the more effectively I can address their specific needs. Once an outstanding judgment exists or a default is imminent, the fraudulent transfer rules make it more difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to utilize many of the asset protection planning techniques that are available. Nonetheless, even in the most extreme cases, we find that we can enhance a client’s position vis-à-vis his creditors. From highly sophisticated planning techniques such as offshore assets protection trusts, domestic asset protection trusts and the use of tiered limited liability companies, to very simple planning techniques such as revocable trusts with proper creditor protection provisions and the proper titling of assets, the challenge and satisfaction that comes with helping people protect their assets for the benefit of themselves and their families never gets old to me. It is a challenge I have embraced; how can we protect our debtor clients from their creditor pursuers.

I am licensed to practice law in the states of Michigan and Ohio. If you live in either of these states and feel that you might benefit from speaking with an asset protection planning attorney, I welcome hearing from you. If you are simply looking for preventative measures, I know there are many planning opportunities that can give you comfort. If you have creditors that are already pursuing you, there is a chance that you may still be able to benefit from planning techniques that are available and that would not violate any fraudulent transfer rules. I also assist clients around the country ….. although in such case we may use local counsel for creating the proper structures.

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