A recent divorcee just dodged the mother of all bullets. He walked away from a nasty and rather lengthy divorce with 95% of his multi-million dollar marital estate. Wins like this don’t happen often, but when they do, it may be important to restructure your real estate holdings to make them more secure moving forward. Getting this client assistance with with developing new business entities that helped to insulate him against similar exposure moving forward was critical.
To be sure, divorce proceedings aren’t the only threats to real estate holdings. Lawsuits present a growing danger to real estate investors in today's hyper-litigious environment. When our client came to us in the wake of his divorce, all of his property was held under one umbrella—his own personal name. Despite having insurance policies on the properties, this "umbrella" was nonetheless riddled with holes.
Although our client had insurance policies on the properties, it may not have been enough to cover sizable judgments. Moreover, because every piece of real estate was in his name personally, creditors could potentially reach any real estate holding armed with a judgment that exceeded the policy limit. If the roof caved in on his Naples property then his own personal home may have been up for grabs. Or conversely, if his lawnmower blew up and injured his neighbor, there may have no longer been a Naples real estate holding at all.
For reasons beyond the scope of this short article, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are the business entity of choice for real estate holdings. An LLC “limits liability” to the extent of the LLCs assets. For this reason, placing real estate holdings into LLCs is an important step in protecting real estate. But why stop at limiting liability between personal and investment assets when the investment assets themselves can also be insulated from each other?
If multiple properties are held under one LLC, investors still find themselves facing a dilemma--liability although limited, isn't really limited enough. In order to maximize LLC protection real estate investors need to insulate each real estate holding from the liability associated with the others by creating a separate LLC for each real estate holding, This simple solution has had an exponential impact on the level of protection his real estate holdings have. When his luck does eventually run out, he'll be prepared to weather the storm.
Before making decisions of this nature you should consult with your Attorney, Accountant or Business Consultant. The information contained in this blog is not being provided as a substitute for obtaining such professional advice.
Issa Israel, J.D.