Mary and Sam weren’t rich, and they knew they never would be.
They owned and worked in their own cabinet making shop, part of a national franchise. After paying their 12 employees, the utility bills and overhead, they took home about $50,000 a year between them. They owned a house and the building that housed their shop – great assets on paper with a bit of equity, but mainly owned by the bank.
And they almost lost it all.
As the years went by, the bad economy kicked in, they realized they just couldn’t make the business viable anymore. When they closed up shop, they got hit with a lawsuit that would have cost them a ton to fight, and five tons if they lost. That’s when they sought the help of an asset protection specialist, to prevent them from losing everything they owned in a lawsuit.
“Theirs was almost a tragic case,” said Hillel L. Presser, Esq., co-author of Financial Self Defense: How to Protect Everything You Own From Everyone Everytime, from Garrett Press (www.assetprotectionattorneys.com ). “And it’s rarely the big corporations who wind up getting hammered by these kinds of lawsuits. It’s the mom and pop shops, the working people, who have worked all their lives to sock away enough to get by in their retirement years, who are at risk.”
Presser’s point is that you don’t have to be a big corporation to be at risk for losing everything you have in litigation.
“No one ever expects to be sued,” Presser said. “That’s why litigation can be so devastating. And once you’ve been sued, it’s typically too late to protect your assets from a judgment against you. And ANYONE with assets can be a victim.”
According to Presser, you’re at risk if you fall into any one of these categories:
- Own a house
- Own any kind of 401K, stocks or bonds
- Own your own business
- May be heading toward the dissolution of a business partnership or a marriage
- In danger of bankruptcy
- In financial trouble
- Have mounting debt
“The fact is that most people don’t realize they are at risk,” Presser said. “In a down economy, corporations and individuals both may have a tendency to be more litigious than before, because everyone is scraping together whatever dimes they can. For many people, their nest egg is gone, and the only safety net they have left are their assets or their equity in those assets. People should be aware that it doesn’t take much to have those assets taken away if the proper steps to protect them from litigation and judgments aren’t taken.”