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Article of the Month for June 2005 Printer friendly version

Pretty Good Property Protection

by Ward Hanigan

When dealing with the ownership of real property (especially for your foreclosure buys) you should protect yourself right from the get-go in such a way as to achieve a high degree of: 1) privacy of ownership, 2) avoidance of clouds on title, and 3) avoidance of probate-doing it all with a good deal of 4) asset protection to boot.

You can achieve these ends fairly simply and inexpensively by using the venerable title holding trust (THT) device in conjunction with the following refinements.

Use an outside trustee
Right from the beginning, back in 1891, the trust used an outside party to fill the role of trustee, thus shielding the trust's owner/creator from any and all public notice and attention.

The trustee's role is basically ceremonial-that of signing, on behalf of the trust, any recorded document that deals with or affects in any way, the title of the trust's real property.

The most effective entity to act as your trustee is an outside Limited Liability Co. (LLC). It provides a good degree of privacy, while at the same time shielding the signatory of the LLC from any personal liability regarding trust lawsuits, etc.

Use an innocuous trust name
For the sake of privacy you want to give some thought to the name you use for your trust, since you wouldn't want it named after you, or anything that's easily traceable to you.

You should use a trust name that would allow you to drop out of sight and stay out of sight thereafter. An easy-to-remember stratagem is to use the name of the street where the property is located, or that of a particular neighborhood or city.

Use an inhospitable beneficiary
By far, one of the better vessels for holding the beneficial interest in your trust is the Family Limited Partnership (FLP)-an unpalatable prize that most creditors would want to avoid because of the prospect of an intolerable charging order.

So whenever you buy real property, whether it's a foreclosure or not, simply vest it in a THT with a name like Empire Builders LLC, as Trustee of the Sonoma Trust, dated 05-05-05. Then use your FLP as the non-disclosed beneficiary and you're done.

Your name wouldn't ever show anywhere in the public record and thus you'd easily achieve all four of your goals - privacy of ownership, avoidance of clouds on title, avoidance of probate and some pretty good asset protection, without ever having to rely on more than one other person in any of the entities involved.

Information provided by this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult your investment advisor and/or attorney before entering into any transaction. Read our privacy policy.

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