Asset Protection Techniques for Florida Professionals in High-Risk Jobs

Everyone wants to protect their assets, either for themselves or for their family. Moreover, everyone could do with a little financial and estate planning. SmithLaw has several blog posts about those issues, including: “Do You Need a Financial Checkup?” and What to Consider when Beginning Your Estate Planning.

A great place to find qualified, non-biased financial planners is through the Financial Planning Association. They offer a search function on their site to find a financial planner in your area. This section of their site details how financial planners charge and this section talks some about how to choose the financial planner that is right for you. Some financial planners can help with estate planning. However, mostly attorneys do that—even our office.

High-risk professionals can benefit from traditional financial planning and estate planning, as well. Many just leave it at that. However, some Florida residents with significant assets, who could lose them through lawsuits or other means, are looking to find ways to add even more protection to their arsenal.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith of Sarasota, Florida often gets asked by doctors, entrepreneurs, and financial professionals: “Are there any legal asset protection techniques for Florida professionals in high-risk jobs?”

First off, asset protection is in no way a reason to avoid applicable insurance. Make sure you check out any insurance suggested by your professional associations, your insurance agent, your attorney, or other professionals in your field. Investigate the best types and rates for your needs. Insurance is valuable protection for many scenarios.

Florida also offers some protection through its own laws. Homestead exemption is just one example. Some other legal ideas to consider include:

  • Corporations, LLCs, and partnerships. These are popular ways that some professionals protect themselves and their assets. They must be set up correctly in order to protect both personal and professional assets.
  • Gifts for minors. Starting accounts for minor children, as accounts that are “in trust” for someone, offer some protection for assets meant for your children.
  • Titling property jointly. This can help protect some assets if one spouse is sued or declares bankruptcy.
  • Retirement money. Money in specified retirements accounts is often protected over other types of assets.

Some bad ideas are:

  • A revocable trust. A trust is perhaps the first thing that pops into someone’s mind as a way to protect assets. A revocable trust can help with probate, but not lawsuits.
  • Hiding money. Do not hide money from creditors, the IRS, etc.… That is illegal. Make sure you make all legitimate money transfers in the proper way and keep a paper trail, so you are not accused of hiding money in someone else’s name.

Your financial and estate plans need to work together well. Once you create these plans, work with an attorney to make sure they will and that you are protecting yourself the very best you can. Do this before implementing them, since you could be surprised how these things can work for you sometimes and against you other times.

For example:

  • Tenancy by entirety might be best for asset protection–but maybe not for divorce.
  • An LLC owned by a married couple might not provide the asset protection in bankruptcy that you are hoping it will.
  • The gift for your minor should be thought through carefully. (Many people often do not want to give an 18-year-old all of their inheritance at once.)

Image credit: Some rights reserved by Mike Saechang

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