May 13, 2015
by Bobby Casey
In my teens through my early 30’s I used to race motorcycles. Even before that and up until this day I continue to ride motorcycles. However, when I raced I was always my own mechanic.
I remember one day working on a motorcycle that wouldn’t start. I was dumbfounded.
I pulled the spark plug out and touched it to a ground while turning it over to see if there was a spark. I removed the carburetor, cleaned it out, and reinstalled it….twice.
I pulled the fuel lines and valves to force compressed air through them. I checked the compression in the engine. Everything.
After a couple of hours, my buddy drops by my garage and sees me red faced, inventing cuss words, and about to toss a hammer through the wall.
He asked, “Did you check the spark plug?” “Of course I did, it had spark.”. He suggested to just simply put in a new one, ‘just in case’.
You guessed it. The bike fired right up. Just one simple trick…
The moral of the story, always find the simple solutions first. Don’t make things more complicated than necessary.
In my line of work, complication seems to be the standard, not the exception.
Every week I hear tales of asset protection specialists, lawyers, CPA’s and financial advisers offering ridiculously complicated strategies for situations that can be handled much easier, and cheaper with the simple solution.
With my firm, we try to minimize complications as best possible.
Certainly we have clients with very complicated asset structures and require more complex strategies, but still we look to simplify wherever possible.
Recently I had a client come to me to get my advice on a strategy her CPA had offered. She had some rental properties in one state and managed them herself.
The CPA recommended a separate LLC for each property, with each LLC owned by an S-corporation. Then the shares of the S-corporation would be owned by a revocable living trust, which at the time of death funded an irrevocable trust.
Not only is this strategy complex, but it exposes all the real estate assets to litigation against the S-corporation. It is very inefficient, increases risk, and quite costly to set up and maintain. Probably the biggest risk from an estate planning perspective is that if any aspect of this structure is not maintained, you jeopardize it entirely.
Certainly not ideal. And not simple.
Through our partner offshore trust and corporate services company, we get a lot of inquires about setting up foreign trusts for ownership of foreign assets.
Not that I disagree with this strategy as we do advise a lot of clients in that direction for various reasons, but it isn’t always necessary – or ideal.
For example, let’s say you are buying a vacation home in Belize and that is your only foreign asset. Additionally you don’t have other significant assets in your home country either.
A trust may not be your best solution.
However, a very simple solution, and one often overlooked – is to just set up an offshore company to own your foreign assets. Like your vacation home in Belize.
First of all, using an offshore company to own these assets gives you a “shield” by keeping your name off of any public record of ownership.
Secondly, if you chose to sell your home in Belize, you can easily sell the shares in your company and avoid any transfer taxes. It is a simple matter of drafting a share purchase contract, receiving funds (can be done through a fiduciary such as our trust company), and changing the ownership of the share certificates. It is a very simple process. And much cheaper.
From an estate planning perspective, it is very easy to contact the registered agent for your offshore company and change the owner of the company shares to your son, daughter, or even if you choose – your offshore trust or foundation. Again, this is a very simple process. And much cheaper.
I cannot stress this enough. Owning foreign assets in a very simple offshore company make asset transfers a piece of cake.
Considering how complicated some of these offshore strategies can get, sometimes we need to check the spark plug. Contact us here if you are interested in setting up an offshore company for your foreign assets.
Until next time, live well.