In today’s increasingly litigious society, asset protection planning is acceptable as a legitimate means of preserving family wealth from the unknown risks associated with a system of civil litigation which all too often favors Plaintiffs. The United States, a country that comprises two percent of the World’s population, accounts for more than 25 percent of all civil liability litigation. There is evidence that each year, Americans file more than 30 million civil lawsuits. It has been estimated pending U.S. lawsuits have reached a level of over five times the U.S. population. This does not include those cases settled before a lawsuit was ever filed. Thus, it is easy to believe that most Americans run the risk of being sued at some point in their lives, and for many people, more than once.
There is sufficient evidence that civil liability lawsuits will play an increasing role in retirement planning of persons who, perhaps through lack of personal thrift, perceive their best chance to secure a comfortable retirement to be in winning a lottery, by inheriting large sums of money or by suing a supposed “deep pocket.”
If you are a professional or business owner or CEO, or if you own commercial or rental real estate, for example, you bear some risk of litigation, in part, because you are a perceived “deep pocket” defendant. If you are a “deep pocket” defendant, you are a virtual magnet for a never-ending barrage of claims, some potentially frivolous. A civil lawsuit that carries a claim for punitive damages may allow for the discovery of a defendant’s net worth.
Asset Protection Planning legitimately protects your accumulated wealth from that one unanticipated lawsuit which otherwise may destroy your net worth. The strategy is to place as many obstacles between an opposing litigant and your assets as are necessary to force the claimant to agree to a minimal, nuisance value settlement. The ultimate goal is to discourage a potential lawsuit before it begins.
Asset Protection Planning is a process and not an event. The timing to begin your planning is important. Asset protection planning should begin immediately, when there is no danger of a lawsuit. For those who wait until the unanticipated lawsuit becomes a reality, Asset Protection Planning becomes virtually impossible.