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Las Vegas, NV Estate Planning & Probate Blog

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Asset Protection Techniques

Every day, potential clients come to find out how to protect their assets from potential creditors and lawsuits. Nevada law offers many “free” exemptions under NRS 21.090. However, many assets are still vulnerable such as non-homesteaded real property, bank accounts and investments. Fortunately, Nevada also offers other options for helping to safeguard these exposed assets.

Once risks and areas of exposure have been identified and the potential protection strategies have been carefully explored, a cost vs. benefit analysis should then be conducted before finally deciding which asset protection strategies to employ.

Two of the most widely used Nevada asset protection structures are the Nevada Limited Liability Company (LLC) and the Nevada Asset Protection Trust (NAPT).

Nevada LLC

limited liability company formed in Nevada offers excellent domestic protection. Most practitioners agree that Nevada offers some of the most favorable corporate laws in the country. Some of the pros of a Nevada LLC are:

  • Nevada’s statues generally favor businesses;
  • The organizational requirements are quite informal- no annual meetings or minutes are necessary;
  • LLC’s are flexible structures that can be used in many different ways- to own property, to manage an operating business and to hold liquid assets;
  • LLC’s can be taxed in four different ways: as a disregarded entity, a partnership, an S-Corp or a C-Corp;
  • Nevada, unlike many other states, has no state income tax or corporate tax; and
  • Nevada LLC’s can be structured to maximize privacy and anonymity.

Perhaps most importantly, the members’ interests cannot be attached by a creditor. The only remedy against a member is to obtain a “Charging Order” allowing the creditor to lien or “charge” the member’s profit distribution rights when, or if, a distribution is made by the member of the LLC. As such, assets within the LLC are safe but trapped.

Nevada Asset Protection Trust

Nevada Asset Protection Trusts (NAPT) were created by The Nevada Spendthrift Trust Act, NRS 166.010 et seq. in 1999. Nevada is one of just a handful of states that provide a Trust of this sort.

This unique law lets an individual create a valid Grantor Trust where he or she is both the Trustee, the person who controls the Trust assets, and the beneficiary, while the assets within the Trust remain protected from creditors. Unlike many other states with similar laws, the Trust creator does not need to be a Nevada resident to create a NAPT. Additionally, any category of asset such as real property, personal property or liquid assets in any location can be protected with a NAPT.

NAPTs work in the following manner: By law, the Trust prohibits the assignment, alienation, acceleration and anticipation of any interest of the beneficiary under the Trust by the voluntary or involuntary act of the beneficiary or by operation of law or any process. Payments by the Distribution Trustee, a third party who has discretion to make distributions, are made only to the beneficiary who can also be the person establishing the Trust. The Trustee of a Spendthrift Trust is required to disregard and defeat every assignment or other act, voluntary or involuntary, that is attempted contrary to the provisions of the Nevada Spendthrift Act.

Some of the benefits of the Nevada Asset Protection Trust are:

  • You keep control of your assets;
  • You may receive the full benefit and use your own assets;
  • You don’t need to give away your assets;
  • You can protect any type, and an unlimited amounts, of assets from creditors;
  • The Nevada Asset Protection Trust is less expensive to form and maintain and much less complex than foreign or offshore Trusts which are often troubled by IRS audits and complicated tax reporting requirements;
  • The Nevada Asset Protection Trust may avoid loss of the assets through a bankruptcy; and
  • The Nevada Asset Protection Trust can be integrated with your estate plan (remember, a “Living” or “Family” Trust does NOT provide the creditor protection benefits discussed above).

With all of its benefits, there are some disadvantages to an NAPT. If the Grantor of the Trust is also a beneficiary, a third party Distribution Trustee must serve as well, which means that the Grantor does not have absolute discretion. Additionally, there is a two-year seasoning period. If a creditor is a current creditor when the transfer of the asset to the NAPT occurs, the creditor must bring suit against the property transfer within two (2) years of the transfer or within six (6) months after the creditor discovers, whichever is later. After the seasoning period is over, the creditor is barred from bringing suit to recover said property.

Both of these techniques, amongst others, can be extremely useful in protecting assets and providing peace of mind in our volatile economy.

 

-Tiffany N. Ballenger, Esq.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nevada's Homestead Protection

The Nevada’s Homestead Exemption Protection law provides homeowners with an excellent asset protection device.  Nevada defines a “homestead property” as: Land with a dwelling on it; a mobile home whether or not the underlying land is owned by the mobile home owner; and/or a unit (such as a condo).  This protection is only available for one’s primary residence, not investment properties or second homes.

The amount of protection from creditors is the equity associated with the property up to the limit of $550,000.  A homesteaded property is not subject to forced sale on execution or any final process from any court, except as otherwise provided by subsections 2, 3 and 5, and NRS 115.090 (and unless otherwise provided by Federal law.)  Furthermore, judgments cannot be executed against homesteaded properties, as defined by In re Contrevo, 23 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 3, March 8, 2007.

Remember, this protection is not automatic.  You must record a valid homestead claim/declaration.  If you have previously recorded a homestead declaration, but later refinanced the property or quitclaimed it to your living trust, please ensure that that you still have a valid declaration recorded.

If your residence qualifies for the exemption (as provided above), and you record the appropriate forms per NRS 115 , the equity in your residence up to $550,000 will be protected from creditors’ claims. Of course, a homestead declaration does NOT protect homeowners from any mortgage or deed of trust (including junior lien holders such as second mortgages or HELOCs).  Also, it does not protect against super-priority lien holders such as HOA fines.

The Clark County Assessor’s website is a wonderful resource for more information on Nevada’s homestead law, as well as information regarding completing the Homestead Declaration Form.

 

-Tiffany N. Ballenger, Esq.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Nevada AB 223 May Protect Your Estate

Existing law allows a judgment creditor to obtain a writ of execution, attachment or garnishment to levy on the property of a judgment debtor or defendant in certain circumstances (NRS 21 and 31). What this means in laymen’s terms is that if you are sued, and the creditor wins, they have the right to collect on that judgment by taking certain property (real property and money held in bank accounts) and even garnishing wages. Nevada provides some protection, however: certain property is exempt from execution and therefore cannot be the subject of such a writ. (NRS 21.090)

This new law, which applies to civil actions, provides that a certain amount of money held in apersonal bank account that is “likely to be exempt from execution” is not subject to a writ of execution or garnishment except in certain circumstances; it provides a procedure to execute on property held in a safe-deposit box; it revises the procedure for claiming an exemption from execution on certain property; and makes various other changes to provisions governing writs of execution, attachment and garnishment.

Specifically, Section 3 of this Bill provides that $2,000 (or the entire amount in the account, whichever is more) held in the personal bank account of a judgment debtor which is likely to be exempt from execution is not subject to a writ of execution or garnishment and must remain accessible to the judgment debtor except in certain circumstances. Monies that are deemed “likely to be exempt from execution” are defined as Social Security Benefits, Veterans’ Benefits, Federal Retirement Benefits and specific types of annuities and all other benefits protected by Federal Law. Section 3 further provides immunity from liability to a bank which makes an incorrect determination concerning whether money is subject to execution. Section 4 of the Bill delineates that if a debtor has accounts with multiple institutions, the writ may attach to all money in the various accounts, and then the debtor may claim any exemption that may apply.

Section 5 of the Bill provides the method of execution of property held in a safe deposit box. It further goes on to revise the form for the writ of execution to include notice to banks of whether the judgment is for support of a person (child or spousal support).

Section 7 of the Bill provides additional exemptions from execution provided by Nevada law (NRS 21.090), such as proceeds received from a private disability insurance plan, money in a trust fund for funeral or burial services, unemployment benefits, PERS benefits, money paid for vocational rehabilitation, and public assistance benefits.

Finally, the Bill revises the procedures for claiming an exemption from execution, and for objecting to such a claim of exemption, such as various forms for writ of execution, attachment, garnishment and notice requirements.

This new law further bolsters Nevada’s already generous stance on asset protection. In addition to generous homestead protection ($550,000), non-ERISA retirement protection ($500,000), and the Nevada Spendthrift Trust statute, Nevada has stepped forward to protect its citizens as they attempt to rebuild in one of the worst economic environments in modern history.

 

-Tiffany N. Ballenger, Esq.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Do I Really Need Advance Directives for Health Care?

Many people are confused by advance directives. They are unsure what type of directives are out there, and whether they even need directives at all, especially if they are young. There are several types of advance directives. One is a living will, which communicates what type of life support and medical treatments, such as ventilators or a feeding tube, you wish to receive. Another type is called a health care power of attorney. In a health care power of attorney, you give someone the power to make health care decisions for you in the event are unable to do so for yourself. A third type of advance directive for health care is a do not resuscitate order. A DNR order is a request that you not receive CPR if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. Depending on the laws in your state, the health care form you execute could include all three types of health care directives, or you may do each individually.


Read more . . .


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Overview of Life Estates

Establishing a Life Estate is a relatively simple process in which you transfer your property to your children, while retaining your right to use and live in the property. Life Estates are used to avoid probate, maximize tax benefits and protect the real property from potential long-term care expenses you may incur in your later years. Transferring property into a Life Estate avoids some of the disadvantages of making an outright gift of property to your heirs. However, it is not right for everyone and comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beware of “Simple” Estate Plans

“I just need a simple will.”  It’s a phrase estate planning attorneys hear practically every other day.   From the client’s perspective, there’s no reason to do anything complicated, especially if it might lead to higher legal fees.  Unfortunately, what may appear to be a “simple” estate is all too often rife with complications that, if not addressed during the planning process, can create a nightmare for you and your heirs at some point in the future.   Such complications may include:


Read more . . .


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