Protect Your Farm And Self From the Lawsuit Epidemic
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In Maryland, the Waterkeeper Alliance is suing a farm family for alleged
water pollution even though the farm is in compliance with state regulations.
If the family loses the case, they may lose their farm. If they settle,
they could still lose.
Lawsuits happen for many reasons – divorce, accidental damages and
injuries, plus far stranger reasons. And the "far stranger reasons"
are more the rule than the exception, says Hillel Presser, a lawyer specializing
in domestic and international asset protection planning.
The Deerfield Beach, Fla., attorney and author of "Financial Self-Defense" (www.AssetProtectionAttorneys.com), adds, "Litigation is America's fastest growing business, and
why not? Plaintiffs have everything to gain and nothing but a few hours'
time to lose. Even if a case seems utterly ridiculous, like the guy in
prison suing his victims' family, defendants are encouraged to settle
just to avoid potentially astronomical legal fees."
Presser strongly encourages seeking the legal counsel for asset protection.
But he notes a few steps you can take on your own:
- Inventory your assets. You likely own more than you think. Besides savings
and retirement accounts, consider any money owed to you, anticipated inheritances
and future assets. Property includes homes, vehicles, jewelry, and land.
Don't forget to consider intangible assets such as valuable brands,
patents and intellectual property.
- Put only assets that are exempt from seizure in your name. Federal and
state laws protect some personal assets from lawsuits and creditors. They
typically include your primary residence, personal items such as furniture
and clothing, pensions and retirement funds, and life insurance. State
exemption laws vary; federal laws govern exemptions in bankruptcy.
- Protectively title non-exempt assets. Putting the title to valuable assets
in the names of corporations, limited partnerships, domestic trusts and
other entities offers some protection. Legal ownership is with an entity
that's not subject to your personal creditors' claims.
- You can also combine protective entities, for instance, giving ownership
of your limited liability company to a limited partnership. It's best
to get professional advice when choosing the entity that'll best protect an asset.
Whether you're worth millions or a few hundred thousand, it's important
to not get caught with your assets showing, he cautions. The more you
have exposed, the more enticing a target you become. The less you have,
the more catastrophic the outcome can be.
"If the average person with $200,000 is sued for $1 million, he's
wiped out," adds Presser. "It's not so horrific for the
person with $25 million who gets sued for $5 million.
YES, YOU CAN LOSE EVERYTHING!
You may think that your wealth is safe and that you don't need protection.
But don't delude yourself and accept reality — for every 60
minutes you spend making money, spend 60 seconds thinking about how to