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Trial Lawyers in America

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QUALITY PLANNING ATTRIBUTES

Americans are today more pessimistic about the future of the U.S. than ever before. Sixty eight percent say America is broken and headed in the wrong direction, according to a new Bloomberg poll.


An even greater number are concerned that our civil justice system is under attack. People are divided. Everyone seems to be suing everyone else. And your assets are increasingly at risk from multiple directions.


Many are uncertain about the benefits of domestic planning vs. offshore planning, and which planners offer the better quality options. Costs to implement asset protection planning are rarely a good gauge.


Today we look at the essential factors you should consider when deciding on a planner to protect your assets, whether at home or offshore. Know what to look for to protect your assets in broken American.

 


Quality Planning Attributes

Every day, headlines splash across newspapers around the country broadcasting the bleak and often frightening realities of our economic times and faltering system. On the national level, we hear about lagging employment, government in the red, and America’s lack of competitiveness on a global scale.

At the local level, we see how individuals, businesses and health care professionals are negatively impacted by relentless litigation and the costs to defend these claims.  

Increasingly, individuals firmly believe that lawsuit abuse is a huge problem. They see too many lawsuits and believe that the number of lawsuits filed have hurt the economy, jobs and their retirement. A large majority believe the current system needs improvement. Too often they witness the legal system being abused for personal profit and a way to cash-in the lawsuit lottery.

Closer to home, a bigger concern is that they may be victims of a lawsuit themselves. Individuals point their fingers squarely at plaintiff lawyers and frivolous litigants who are the most to blame for the problems in the system.  

Are you today more than a little concerned? Perhaps more than a wee bit wary about getting sued, or being harassed for legitimate offshore planning?

Here’s how to measure up and locate quality planning advice to protect your assets.

How to Achieve Quality Asset Protection

The clients we assist with asset protection and offshore planning vary widely from the novice struggling with where to begin, to the well-informed, and even to assisting other planning professionals with their client’s special needs. 

One common question I'm repeatedly asked is how to achieve the best asset protection for the money. Since I literally wrote the book (actually, the first book on asset protection in 1999) and for years have taught other lawyers and professionals how it works (as Adjunct Professional of International Law and a seminar speaker), I’m happy to share a few important points with you.

First and foremost, is caveat emptor, or buyer beware.

While the asset protection industry is still a relatively small one, there are many well-intended practitioners today offering asset protection plans who simply don't have a clue what happens during litigation, or how to really protect their client's assets from lawsuits.

Unfortunately, for the clients who fall into the hands of even the well-intended planner (or otherwise) who offer their plan based upon latest marketing gimmick, the plan usually falls apart at the first threat of litigation.

Why is litigation experience important?

The short answer is that the real test of a successful asset protection plan is whether it will stand or fall in the courtroom. Read that sentence again. And remember these words.

Obtaining quality asset protection planning from top-quality experts in the field is all about achieving desired results you seek in the first place. While the courtroom is a last case, fall-back scenario, you must be prepared for your planning to withstand the rigor of hungry plaintiff litigation lawyers, disdainful judges, and uninformed juries that are rarely your peers.

If your planner has little or no experience in litigation, can they possibility offer you a quality product designed to withstand litigation attacks? Too frequently estate planners and general practitioners offer these services with little or no courtroom or international experience.

But the worst offenders are the non-attorney scam artists who put together worthless asset protection 'kits' from various offshore locations, or offshore groups or clubs. These kits don't give any real asset protection. Not only are the standard form packages often useless, but they are rarely properly funded. And income tax and compliance reporting borders on outright disastrous.

The next set of offenders are the asset protection office mills churning out limited liability companies, family limited partnerships, asset protection trusts or foundations. Often they are offered at discount prices, and at other times ridiculously overpriced.

Secretaries and paralegals that crank out documents from their word processors are often behind these mills. At best, lawyers with limited knowledge and experience in the asset protection field offer these services after attending a seminar and obtaining copies of someone else’s documents. But at the heart of it, these mills offer little or no customized planning.

Or worse, they create more problems than the ones you're trying to avoid.

What’s more, there are the asset protection service-providers who claim that their offshore or domestic trusts, IBCs or bank accounts are guaranteed not to fail, regardless of the problem or issue you are confronted with. These guarantees are generally misleading and false.

And unfortunately, these marketing claims result in a negative image for the asset protection and offshore industry, instil doubt in the U.S. courts where they are ultimately challenged, and create unreasonable expectations by individuals looking to implement legitimate planning.

Finally, there are some planners using multiple layers of various types of entities to secret assets to obtain maximum privacy. These plans are generally a waste of your time and money, and are often created for no other purpose than concealing or hiding assets.

Another important point to remember is that the hallmark of a successful asset protection plan is not in 'secreting' or hiding assets.

So then, how can you achieve quality asset protection planning in a world increasingly filled with inexperienced planners and unscrupulous peddlers of questionable asset protection products?

How to Pick the Right Planner

Asset protection is a legal strategy of isolating your nest egg assets from business and investment assets through various entities you control. Then these assets are nurtured to grow for future retirement or subsequent generations.

Asset protection does not generally mean giving up control. However, it does mean correctly managing the assets and legal risks associated with the various types of assets, and segregating risky assets from other low risk types of assets or activities.

Understand that asset protection planning is not about guaranteeing you will never lose a dollar to a claimant or creditor.

And asset protection is a system – when correctly implemented - that ultimately allows you to create a much stronger line of defense to resolve a dispute, with opportunities for superior results than if you didn’t have planning in place.

Asset protection planning is, and should be, your final line of defense.

You are simply rolling the dice if you haven't created a quality asset protection plan well in advance of the eventuality of a claim, lawsuit, or other dispute.

Asset protection has come to mean the integration of multi-disciplinary fields of international law and business planning. Solid asset protection planning utilizes the experience of qualified and experienced multi-disciplined individuals, and reflects a high order of ethics and competence by planners in various fields using a team approach.

And regrettably, too many well-intended providers have the skills in the wrong order, meaning that they have the least experience in a field where it is needed most.

In other words, they are too often most experienced in the fields which are of secondary, or lesser importance, such as estate planning and taxation. While these skills are of critical importance in integrating and achieving a successful asset protection plan, they are generally totally lacking in the essential skills that are needed most to actually protect assets against lawsuits.

What is the Essential Knowledge & Experience of a Planner?

As noted above, the true test of asset protection is generally in the courtroom. This is a basic premise of all planning when looking to achieve quality asset protection.

Therefore, first and foremost, trial and litigation experience is essential to quality asset protection planning.

Being a seasoned and experienced trial litigator means being able to predict what judges and juries will do when faced with your particular set of circumstances. You simply can't make reasonable trial predictions unless you have been in a number of civil trials. Attempting to predict what judges will do without understanding the courtroom and litigation tactics is akin to a hope and a prayer.

It's unfortunate how many so-called asset protection planning experts have little or no experience in the single most important arena where your asset protection planning could ultimately be tested.

Second, it is essential that a planner have knowledge of the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act, and how your planning might be wiped out by failing to comply with this statutory law. Quality asset protection plans are often created in conjunction with the use of corporations, partnerships, LLCs, trusts, and other like entities, and the transfer of assets into these entities.

The planner must also be well versed with the law regarding the formation, operation, and defense of these structures. And too, a good asset protection planner should be knowledgeable about bankruptcy law, since these legal tools may be needed in a time of crisis.

Third, it is important that the planners be versed in the laws of at least the main offshore jurisdictions they operate in, as well as with international banking and how moneys are transferred overseas. Once known as ‘tax havens’, today's offshore financial centers offer far more services than in days gone by.

It is no doubt that we live in an economic village, and today the world is much smaller. Your planner must understand how laws and customs function from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Too many planners barely understand the local laws that govern your planning, and fewer still have any genuine firsthand experience with local customs or procedures. Spending time in the local community building relationships with local services providers is essential, and this can’t be accomplished from a text book or by a telephone call.

Fourth, quality asset protection plans are created in coordination with competent tax professionals. It is important that no negative tax consequences be created.

In the first instance, asset protection plans should be designed to be ‘tax neutral’, meaning that they have neither positive nor negative tax consequences. At the same time, if opportunities for legal tax planning exist, this should be integrated into the planning structure by qualified tax professionals. Estate planning is just one of many examples.

Finally, asset protection plans should generally be integrated with your estate planning. Integrating asset protection planning with estate planning is highly desirable for a variety of reasons, and allows you to achieve quality results with your planning structure.

Finding a Competent and Experienced Planner

Asset protection is similar to other forms of legal planning. Always hire the best attorney who has the greatest training and firsthand experience in the areas most essential to make your planning succeed.

Question the planners on what they do and how. Importantly, ask how many civil cases and courtroom trials they have successfully completed. Then, rely on their legal expertise and judgment, but always use your common sense.

For asset protection planning to work, ask yourself if you will be able to look a judge or jury in the eyes and say that you are confident in what your asset protection planner has created for you. Will you be able to state that the steps you took were legal, ethical, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety?

And one of the most essential steps to achieving solid results is to take steps now, well in advance of future problems. If you wait until it is too late, then there is not much that you can do other than damage control. Take action today, while the seas are calm and before the storm sets in.

To learn more about the both stateside and offshore planning visit DavidTanzer.com. To start learning how to protect your assets How to Legally Protect Your Assets, 2nd edition, is a good start. To learn more about international aspects, read Offshore Living & Investing, 2nd edition.

Or to learn about how an initial review can start your planning, contact me at this link.

Until next time......

David

 
 
David A Tanzer, Esq.
JD, BSc, Ph.D (Hon)
 
For more information visit www.DavidTanzer.com or email to Datlegal@aol.com. David is the author of “How to Legally Protect Your Assets” and “Offshore Living and Investing.”
 
David A Tanzer & Assoc., PC.
Datlegal@aol.com
DAT@DavidTanzer.com
www.DavidTanzer.com
 
Vail, CO USA:
Tel. (970) 476-6100
Fax (720) 293-2272
Auckland, New Zealand:
Tel. (64) 9 353-1328
Fax (64) 9 353-1328
Brisbane, Australia:
Tel. (61) 7 3319 6999
Fax (61) 7 3319 6999
(Licensed to Practice Law in U.S. States & Federal Courts; Assoc. Member Auckland, N.Z. District Law Society - Foreign Lawyer; & Assoc. Member Queensland Law Society, AU - Foreign Lawyer)
 
The comments herein are not intended to constitute a legal or tax opinion regarding any specific legal or tax issue as additional issues may exist; does not reach a conclusion with respect to any specific legal or tax issue addressed herein or any additional issues not included; and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding legal or tax obligations or penalties with respect to issues in or outside the scope of matters discussed herein.

(c) Copyright by David A. Tanzer & Associates, P.C. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, as amended, and pursuant to the laws of all countries, no part hereof may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, electronic or otherwise, without the prior written permission of David A. Tanzer & Associates, P.C. Reprint in whole or part strictly prohibited unless prior written permission is granted. International Copyright protected under the Berne Convention, Universal Copyright Convention  and laws of all other Copyright protected countries, and consistent with the World Trade Organization TRIPS.
 
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