When in Doubt-Sue…America’s favorite pastime!
Basic asset-protection tools to consider…protect yourself now.
Does everyone in America have a lawyer on speed dial?
As I write this a little league coach in CA is suing a 14-year old over an incident of the child’s helmet hitting the coach’s foot…you know something, it’s a sport, get out of coaching if you’re a dimwit.
McDonald's is being sued again by a California woman who claims she was scalded by their hot coffee. In 1990, a New Mexico woman was awarded $2.9 million in a hot-coffee lawsuit against McDonald's; the award was later reduced to about $500,000. Meanwhile, a continent away, a New Jersey woman is suing a real estate developer for not disclosing the presence of a 'bad' neighbor when she purchased a house.
In any other place, these cases might seem odd. But America is the world's most litigious nation by far. The legal site eLocal Lawyer states that 15 million civil suits are filed every year; approximately 55% are decided in favor of the plaintiff. Those statistics do not count the many disputes that are settled before a filing occurs or criminal cases. According to the American Bar Association, there were 1,244,120 attorneys who were actively practicing in 2012; the American population is approximately 313 million.
We’re the only nation which doesn’t have Tort Reform in place because the ABA is such a powerful lobby and so many in Congress are lawyers and we have more lawyers per square mile than any other country. It’s been reported that all these lawsuits cost us on average 25% more for consumer goods.
Class action lawsuits are a sick joke for most plaintiffs-the lawyers get rich first, then the plaintiff might get a few cents of any settlement. This happened with the Asbestos class action suit and in the case of the suit by the 50 states against Big Tobacco – nearly all those lawyers retired wealthy while states ripped off the public with its misuse of the proceeds (they had all promised the money would go to education and only ONE state lived up to that promise…then nearly every state and the feds raised tobacco taxes several times, profiting from their engineered greed)!
America's runaway litigation threatens both individual freedom and the harmony of society. The most consistent risk factor for being sued is wealth, or what is called the “Deep Pocket Theory.” The more assets an entity or person has, the greater the chance of being sued.
No one argues against a lawsuit that seeks reasonable awards for a genuine harm. But the mass of litigation in America today has moved well beyond reasonable, well beyond genuine.
The United States will not become less litigious in the near future (NOTE: Always a good idea to make yourself judgment-proof if you own a lot of assets). A growing number of people make excellent money through filing suits against others.
At one time I was an elected official and when the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) became law, I attended a seminar which introduced us to the pitfalls of frivolous lawsuits which would result from this law…and they did. There was a ‘professional plaintiff’ in one state that spent his days eating at various restaurants and measuring ramp inclines and other ‘safety challenges for the handicapped’ and his legal partner would sue if the eatery was so much as a half-inch off the proper incline. Most places settled out of court. He and his lawyer made a fortune.
It is not merely plaintiffs or lawyers who use the courts to get a pay check. The New York Times (Nov. 14, 2010) reported, “Large banks, hedge funds and private investors hungry for new and lucrative opportunities are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into medical malpractice claims, divorce battles and class actions against corporations — all in the hope of sharing in the potential winnings.” Using the 2010 public records of one state alone (New York), the Times estimated that “more than 250 law firms borrowed on pending cases, often repeatedly” during the last decade.
You might enjoy Bill Rounds’ (a CA attorney) insight on avoiding lawsuits and these other resources:
Somewhat controversial but a ton of information you can use…everything from how the government violates its own Privacy Act of 1974 to your Land Rights, Property Rights and links to publications this humble author has written for in protecting privacy rights.
Pick up a copy of this free PDF – About SSN & TIN’s on Government Documents
You’ll find many other useable reports here too on protecting your privacy!
Everyone Needs Asset Protection Now
It's no wonder asset protection has become a respected, booming business. With tighter bankruptcy laws on the books and few signs frivolous lawsuits are being reined in, larger and larger numbers of real-estate investors, doctors, families, and business owners are seeking shelter from threats to their assets.
Some protection strategies include:
Dropping money into retirement accounts. Congress made them off-limits to most creditors and lawsuits.
A number of U.S. states are rivaling offshore havens with less-expensive trusts. Alaska, Delaware, Rhode Island, Nevada, and South Dakota are excellent starting points (and you don't have to be a legal resident to set one up.) U.S.-based trusts cost about half the amount it takes to set them up abroad. While domestic trusts haven't yet been fully tested by the courts, they are still a complicating factor to those pursuing frivolous lawsuits.
Umbrella insurance protects assets from personal injury and other claims by extending coverage beyond all the limits of your other insurance. And it's dirt cheap because umbrella policies only kick in after the claims on your other insurance policies have been exhausted. I used an excess umbrella policy when I owned my publishing firm (and placed the title to our primary home into my wife’s name –that was a personal mistake-)…at the time, this was cheaper than an ‘errors and omissions policy’ that most publishers purchased.
Be wary of putting gold, diamonds, cash, etc. in a personal safe deposit box at your bank. (Actually, we're a bit wary of putting gold in a safe deposit box at all, for reasons detailed elsewhere.) Upon the death of the box's holder, it automatically gets sealed for purposes of probate and tax liability review. Use a corporate safe deposit box instead – people die, but corporations with multiple trusted key holders don't.
Take advantage of state exemptions from lawsuits and creditors. In states such as Florida and Texas you can sink your assets into building improvements or even pay off your home's mortgage. Other protected assets include life insurance and retirement plans.
"Equity stripping" involves loading up a property with debt to make it less attractive to legal predators. You could, for example, take out a loan against your vacation home and place the proceeds into an unattachable instrument, such as an insurance policy or annuity. (Don't forget, you eventually have to pay that loan back!)
In today's complicated legal and regulatory environment, common-sense asset protection is a fundamental building block of smart living.
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