As part of asset protection, an estate plan should be incorporated. Entrepreneurs, businesses, and individuals should constantly plan on the worst case, even when times are good. This is the first step to asset protection whether you have something to protect now or in the future. Free market economies are such that there will be some bubble every 7 to 10 years. These fall in line with 7 year cycles of ups and downs in all aspects of life. The easiest way to get through the down cycles is to plan during the good cycles, at the end of tough times, and at the beginning of the good cycles. While some do not believe that we are at the beginning of a good cycle or simply coming to the end of a bad cycle, now is the time to make proper planning.
While doing this, individuals should also weave into their estate plan all of their documents. This would include setting up proper trusts, along with how the corporate entities would be maintained in the estate plan, which should include an estate tax plan, along with the full array of necessary estate documents. Once these plans are set up, they are not permanent, and they need to be reviewed yearly because the legal nature of changes that occur not only the tax codes, but potential problems that can occur causing part of the entire plan to fail during bad times.
Proper tools need to be put in place so that the ship will stay afloat regardless of what storms arise. Build your ship for smooth sailing, but keep it unsinkable during the worst of storms. In other words, do not build the Titantic, build a Zumalt-class destroyer. The Titantic was a big fancy ship of its day that was thought to be unsinkable just because someone said so, but turned out to be nothing but a floating disaster. A Zumalt-class destroyer should be used metaphorically as it is designed to come in, appearing to be the size of a small fishing boat on radar, but survive the worst of storms and bring in more lethal fire power than has ever floated on the high seas. Planning should not only be handled correctly, but it should be done well and be done to last.
The bottom line with asset protection is to spend the time now to make plans regardless of your situation, and it will save you ten-fold in the future, along with unnecessary worry and expense. In every bad business cycle that we have seen in our practice of law, there have been numerous situations where we knew that if we were involved years before the problems would have never occurred or would have different outcome. This is not always the case in litigation as it is quite often unavoidable, but proper planning can surely save not only your estate, your well-being, but your personal sanity.
Stephen Fuller is the managing partner of Fuller Sloan LLC and has practiced in business litigation and consulting for 37 years and has over 25 years representation of the founder of one of the largest sit-down casual restaurants in America. For more information, send Mr. Fuller an email.