Why not use the available legal methods to protect your assets? Those seeking to come after those assets surely will. Entrepreneurs, businesses and individuals should constantly plan on the worse case, even when times are good. This is the first step to asset protection whether you have something to protect now or have in the future. Free market economies are such that there will 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.
During the good times many people become less concerned about protection as opposed to revenue generation. This is true whether someone is trying to get a raise at work or increase sales for a business. Strategic use of entities and company set-up should be done consistently and constantly whether times are good or bad. The law provides protection with legal entities in a variety of situations that are designed to protect the individual and encourage free market activity. Use of these entities is not only proper, but it is the best way to keep the wheels of commerce running. Maintaining and properly using entities has also become extremely important during this last economic cycle. Even a properly set up entity that is not correctly maintained can create personal liability of shareholders or key officers. Maintaining these entities whether they are corporations, limited liability companies, limited liability partnerships, limited partnerships or trusts should be reviewed annually. Challenges to the corporate entity status and attacking trusts are frequent during bad times through litigation of piercing the corporate veil or attacking spendthrift provisions in trusts. It is not only more efficient but provides greater protection to plan in advance and handle these entities correctly before trouble occurs.
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, 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 of time in the future, along with unnecessary worry and expense. Every bad business cycle that we have seen in our practice of law there have been numerous situations where we knew 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 sure 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.