Protect Your Identity: Protect Your Assets: Privacy

#1 in a series of 3

There comes a time in most of our lives when we acquire enough assets to begin worrying about how to protect them. Let’s assume that you are about to put some of your hard earned money into a large yacht to be based in Orange County and chartered out for income.  You would prefer that the whole world not know about it.  You do not want your other personal assets exposed, if your yacht went down with America’s favorite family on board.  There are legal techniques, some old, some very new, with which to accomplish both of these purposes.

In this article we will learn how to acquire assets without disclosing our identity.  In next week’s article, we will learn a very new legal technique to acquire assets without exposing the remainder of our assets.  In the third, and last, article of this weekly series, we shall put both techniques together and purchase assets anonymously and safely.

We have all heard of trusts.  Trusts do many things, from avoiding probate and reducing estate taxes to managing wildlife areas and purchasing museum art.  Did you also know that trusts are used for privacy?  Today, your assets and identity can be easily discovered.  For example, copies of real estate deeds with the owners’ names are recorded in the public records of every county in the United States.  The Internet will only make it easier to discover the identity of your assets.

How do we hide our assets from increasingly prying eyes? Answer: the trust.  You, as grantor, create a trust, where the trustee is some other person, your attorney, accountant, or other trusted person, and you are the beneficiary.  You retain the right to direct the trustee in matters concerning the acquisition, management and disposition of the property.  The trust should be revocable for reasons stated later.

The main purpose of the trust is privacy.  The name of the trustee is recorded in the public records, not your name.  No one will know who the actual owner of the property is except you, your attorney, and the trustee.  If the trustee lives in a different state or country, then it becomes even more difficult for others to determine that you are the owner.  Of course, you would have to disclose that you were the owner by court order.  In addition, you must still report income and other tax matters concerning such property on your personal income tax return.

A trust does not have to be registered with the state, as do corporations and other business entities.  The trustee controls the trust records and the identity of the beneficiaries.  A trustee should not disclose this information without a court order.  These trusts may also be used for personal property, such as cars, boats, leases, and even bank accounts and corporate stock.  A trust is a tool to keep your financial matters private in the “information age”.

If the trust is revocable, the IRS treats these trusts as “tax neutral”, and there are no tax consequences of transferring property into the trust.  The result will be much different if you transfer the property into other entities, such as corporations.  As always, consult your trusted accountant and attorney with respect to your individual circumstances, as this article has been prepared for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date.

In the next article, we learn how to acquire an asset without exposing our other assets to its liabilities.  In the third article, we put the two tools together to increase both the privacy and safety of our assets.
















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Who We Are

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The present firm arose from Bruce's move from the Los Angeles area to Dana Point, where he and his wife wanted to live since they first  discovered it. 

Bruce comes from the Senior Counsel position in a large world class international technology, engineering and construction corporation with thousands of employees, hundreds of large clients, world class projects, hundreds of affiliates, and complex transactions and litigation.  Before that, he gained significant major law firm experience, including arguments before state appellate and supreme courts.

His desire in moving to Dana Point was and still is to bring his world class experience to smaller and emerging businesses in the area.  This experience produces more valuable legal and business judgment from him than is available from newer attorneys or attorneys whose practices are more specialized and localized.  His extensive Resume is here Résumé.

Marlene wears all hats other than "Lawyer" in the firm,  including Paralegal, Marketing, Accounting, and Office Management and Assistance. Her extensive Resume is here Résumé.

Notice: The purpose of this article is to provide information, rather than advice or opinion. It is accurate to the best of my knowledge as of the date of the article. I have no duty to update this article. The information, examples and suggestions presented in this article have been developed from sources believed to be reliable. This article should not be viewed as a substitute for the guidance and recommendations of a retained professional and should not be construed as legal or other professional advice. In addition, I do not endorse any actions addressed herein, unless they are produced or created by me.  I recommend consultation with me or other competent legal counsel and/or other professional advisors before applying this material to any particular factual situations.