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WHAT WE SAY & DO

What we do – or don’t do – says a lot about who we are.

We like to think our decisions are carefully controlled and thought out, but research and psychologists tell us that most of our everyday decisions are actually subconscious. As every second our brains are bombarded with millions of individual pieces of data, there is no way we can consciously sift through it all.

There are few things more fascinating than the human mind, yet it is one of the least understood objects in the universe. Still, we know enough that psychologists can make predictions about our behavior based on observations and rules that pretty much hold true.

These observations apply to our handwriting, how we describe others, our Internet research, the cars we drive, and even how we plan for asset protection and the administration of our estate, and much more. (See 10 tips below)

Let’s see what the research reveals.

What we Say & Do

First, according to research, your handwriting gives clues to 5,000 different personality traits based on the way you space your letters, how you sign your name, and even how you connect the letter 'o' and 's' to other letters in a word. The size of your handwriting can demonstrate your personality traits.  People with small handwriting tend to be shy, studious and meticulous, whereas outgoing people who love attention will have larger handwriting. For example, wide looping created in 'l' and 'e' can suggest you are relaxed or spontaneous, or open minded. Narrow loops tend to express scepticism of others.

How you view others is often linked to your happiness, and can generally describe how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable you are. Describing others by positive and negative characteristics - researchers say - determine your well-being, mental health, social attitudes, and even how you believe you are judged by others.

Researchers found a person's tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of the positivity of the individual’s own personality traits. There are particularly strong associations between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable you are generally described by others. In other words, seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits.

In contrast, negative perceptions of others are linked to higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior. Researchers discovered that a tendency to see others negatively indicates a greater likelihood of unhappiness or depression.

And it’s no news that what you wear says a lot about you. Your clothes provide information about your profession or occupation, as well as your ambitions, emotions and personal spending habits.

Your Internet browser history reveals other information about who you are – apparently more than most of us care to provide. Google and other spying-eyes go to great lengths to watch what you do when sitting down at the computer.

One of my favorites is how our post codes and the cars we drive are said to speak volumes about who we are. Car choices are said to correlate with hundreds of different personal characteristics, including hobbies, political preferences, TV habits and emotional qualities.

The Wall Street Journal, using data from Experian, recently sifted through the most recent popular luxury cars purchased in some of America’s priciest ZIP Codes. They found that in Beverly Hills, CA 90210 (medium home price $4.4 million) car buyers favor Mercedes-Benz, according to Zillow.com.  Up the coast in San Francisco, 94027, buyers shift gears (medium home price $4.8 million) and it’s the eco-friendly Tesla Model S that’s most popular.

According to a recent Strategic Vision analysis, gambling is a more common hobby of the Mercedes-Benz E Class, while bridge and poker are popular pursuits among Mercedes-Benz S Class buyers. Humm….

In McLean, VA 22101, Pinecrest, FL 33156, and Dallas (Highland Park), TX 75205, it’s the Lexus RX350 by a wide margin. The Lexus is associated with high church attendance.

Interestingly, in Manhattan, NY 10013 (medium home price $3.2 million) it’s the BMW X5, closely followed by the Range Rover. Significant is that the Rover is generally associated with outdoor pursuits, such as horseback riding and skeet shooting - activities not typically associated with the Big Apple. And the BMW X5 car owners are said to have a higher propensity for bowling than most other vehicle owners, according to the survey. Go figure.

So what do your efforts – or the lack therefore - to eliminate uncertainties about the future of your assets say about you?

What Asset Protection & Estate Planning Says About You

The process of insulating and protecting assets from creditor claims during your lifetime is called asset protection. And anticipating and arranging for the disposal of your assets after death is called estate planning.  Quality planning integrates both lifetime and death planning.

Asset protection consists of using legal methods to protect your assets from liabilities arising elsewhere. In many cases it is possible to vest legal title in personal assets in a trust, while retaining control of the assets through LLCs. Asset protection planning is the debtor’s side of creditor-debtor law.

Estate planning is a process of arranging the transfer of your assets for the future event of death. An estate plan aims to preserve the maximum amount of your assets as possible for beneficiaries and others of your choice.

Proper planning includes all property - real and personal - owned by an individual prior to holding title or distribution through a trust. Real property is real estate. Personal property includes everything else, for example your home, cars, stocks and bank accounts.

If your house is in order and all assets are protected, it says a lot of positive things about you. It shows that you take life’s risks serious, that you plan ahead for the future, and care about protecting assets for your loved ones. It also demonstrates that you are willing to take responsibility and control of your life.

On the other hand, if you’ve failed to take the necessary steps to protect your assets, what do you think the reverse says?

What follows are ten tips for protecting your assets.

Ten Simple Tips

1. Asset protection can place assets out of the reach of creditors. Proper asset protection can keep assets out of the hands of future, potential creditors. If you don’t own the asset, it is difficult for them to reach the asset.

2. Start early, and don’t try to hide assets from your creditors. Generally speaking, steps today - before a claim arises - generally works. But few things done after a claim arises will be successful. One reason is that after a claim arises, transfers can be undone by fraudulent transfer laws, or worse. 

3. Your cash doesn’t need to be hidden offshore. Hiding assets has never been a hallmark of quality asset protection planning. But assets placed offshore are certainly more difficult for creditors to reach. How many assets – and importantly when assets – are placed offshore is an important decision. Timing is everything. But until or unless these measures are required, you can keep your assets right at home. Having steps in place to quickly and timely transfer assets when necessary is part of a quality planning structure.

4. Diversify Your Assets. Some individuals take great pleasure is diversifying their assets between onshore and offshore. Not only is this smart thinking for a variety of reasons, but it can offer greater returns with lower risks. And those assets offshore when a claim arises are generally far better protected.

5. Late Planning Usually Backfires. Asset protection created after a claim arises usually makes matters worse. What good is trying to obtain homeowner’s insurance after the fire trucks are already in the driveway? Not only can a judge unwind a transfer after the fact, but both the debtor and those who assisted in the transfers can become liable to the creditors. There is never a better time than now to implement your planning.

6. Asset Protection Planning Can Reduce Insurance Premiums. Asset protection can and does allow for opportunities to save money on insurance premiums. But asset protection and traditional insurance can go hand-in-hand. While asset protection is sometimes thought of as another form of insurance to protect assets, it does not entirely eliminate the need for insurance altogether. Depending on the type of traditional insurance cover, some insurance can serve as a useful tool to quickly and inexpensively resolve disputes. And then when the need arises, your asset protection plan is in place to offer the best available protection well-beyond what traditional insurance provides.

7. Keep it simple, stupid. What good is a planning structure that you don’t understand? If you don’t understand it, or know how to use it effectively, then it may not work. Asset protection and estate planning should not be overly-complicated. If your planner can’t help you understand the planning principals in their basic form, then it may not be right for you. Above all, when it comes to planning, the KISS method is easier to understand, explain, and use effectively.

8. Trust should own LLCs, and LLCs should own the assets. Think of the trust as the primary planning tool that protects your assets. It contains not only your estate planning, but also the essential asset protection provisions and other features important to you. Then, to properly segregate assets and equity from risk, the trust should own the LLCs, and in turn, the LLCs should own the assets. You can control the assets directly as the LLC manager. And as trust protector, you have important controls over the trustee.

9. Too Much Control Is A Bad Thing. With the above being said, asset protection planning attempts to reach a balance between sufficient control of assets and to avoid creditor’s arguments that the planning structure should be disregarded on alter ego or similar theories. This is where properly planning – and an experienced planner – comes into play. (Go here to learn about what to look for in a good planner.)

10. Don’t Relay Upon Homestead Exceptions & Bankruptcy to Protect Assets. Prior to the last major changes in the bankruptcy codes, filing for bankruptcy allowed a debtor to get rid of debts, keep many assets, and start anew. But that has all changed. Today, homestead exemptions are limited, and provisions in the bankruptcy code and case law can make relying upon homestead exemptions unreliable, or sometimes useless. What’s worse, why place the fate of your assets in the hands of a local bankruptcy judge who yields strong powers?

Bonus Tip: Asset protection planning should be based on the presumption that your planning and its purpose will eventually become known to creditors. Generally, it usually does. And this can actually serve to your benefit as your need to press upon your creditors about how difficult it will be to recover assets from the planning you implemented ages ago. As noted above, asset protection plans that require secrecy are simply not good planning, and often create more problems than it serves.

After all is said and done, what you do today to protect your assets says plenty about you.

What to do Next …..

Our web site – DavidTanzer.com – offers complimentary past articles describing International Trusts if you wish to learn more. The more you understand international planning options, the less foreign they become.

The complimentary past newsletters and articles on our website is a great place to begin. International tips are located here.

To learn more about the legitimate use of International Trusts for other integrated planning purposes, the book  How to Legally Protect Your Assets, 2nd edition, is a good step. Or to learn more about the correct way to go offshore, read Offshore Living & Investing, 2nd edition.

And if you wish to start today and learn how to proceed with a confidential consultation to review your personal situation to accomplish your objectives, then contact me here.

I look forward to talking with you.

 

Until next time……

David