Beat a Lawsuit Before it Begins
We recently read an article about a surgeon who was driving in the parking lot at one of the world’s most prestigious teaching hospitals. He had just spent a long day in the O/R working on an especially difficult case, and was running late for his daughter’s spelling bee. As he rushed through the parking lot on his way to the school, he accidentally struck a nurse who was walking to her vehicle. He got out of the car to make sure she was all right. She had a few minor scrapes on her legs, and said she was okay other than that. He walked her to her car, and even called her the next day just to make sure she was still okay. He was told that she was just fine and that there were no problems. Two weeks later he received notice of a civil lawsuit. Apparently she had checked herself in to the emergency room three days after the accident occurred. He learned through a friend of a friend that she had been urged by her colleagues to “go after the easy money.” Does this story scare you? It should.
Asset Protection Defined
While estate planning focuses on preventing many different wealth-eroding factors (taxes, prodigal spenders, poor trust structure, divorce, and others), for this article’s purpose, asset protection is specific to wealth erosion caused by a liability claim or bankruptcy.
With the advent of Internet research, asset protection has become a major concern for physicians. Today it is a simple fact that virtually any attorney can easily uncover the following information about you:
- Your annual income and the income of your spouse
- Your assets
- Your social security number
- The balance in your accounts
- The location of your accounts, including account numbers and safe deposit boxes
- The investment positions you own, and the trades you have placed in your accounts
- The equity in your home
- Your mother’s maiden name
Based on the above information, a plaintiff’s attorney can quickly tell if you are a good candidate to be a defendant in his lawsuit. If you have deep pockets, great income, and a lot of assets, it is far more likely you will find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. On the other hand, if a little research uncovers that you only own a home with little equity and few other assets in your name, you are much more likely to avoid the unpleasantness and expense of a lawsuit.
We have deep experience, unique strategies and a different perspective to help you design a personalized asset protection plan that can minimize your exposure and liability.