A Reverse Black Friday 

Posted by on Nov 23, 2020 in Legal News |

Black Friday, for a lot of people, is a day to score great deals, and it has been practically a holiday itself since the 1980s. The American Philatelist was the first magazine to use the term “Black Friday,” coining it in reference to dealing with the additional hours, extra long shifts, and traffic. The term was, at the time, negative, but it has since become standard for anyone talking about the day after Thanksgiving. It’s the busiest shopping day of the year.

The Black Friday we’re talking about is somewhat of a “Reverse Black Friday.” Instead of assets that you’re going to buy, this article is about assets you already own and want to protect from possible sources of liability. This article will serve as a guide to the different ways you can do that. 

Source of Liability 

There are many more sources of liability than those listed below, and there is only a brief definition provided for those listed. However, these are some of the most common: lawsuits, underinsurance or no insurance, divorce, callable loans, and debt. These can all result in your assets being taken from you—no matter how precious. 


You might think of a lawsuit as only something that happens to you when you do something wrong, but that’s not always the case. America is a very litigious society. Each year, over 40 million lawsuits are filed in the U.S. Businesses can be subject to employment discrimination, worker’s compensation, malpractice, breach of contract, and other lawsuits that can cost you, if not in judgment, in legal fees. 

Uninsured or Underinsured 

If you’re in an auto accident and you don’t have insurance (or you don’t have enough insurance), a lawsuit can go after your assets. States do have minimum liability requirements, but juries aren’t exactly opposed to handing out millions of dollars in awards. 


Your ex-spouse knows more about your finances than most creditors, and a divorce can hit you where it hurts, especially since you cannot usually discharge back child support or alimony in the case of bankruptcy. Things get even trickier if you and your ex own a business together—especially if the divorce is acrimonious. 

Callable Loan

Lenders, in certain cases, can “call” a loan and demand you pay it back immediately. If you have the means, you can refinance the debt and hope that works. If not, your assets are going to be the first to go as a way to avoid bankruptcy.


Though federal law puts a limit on liability from the debt that is secured by your home, there are no restrictions like that on commercial loans. If you fall behind on your mortgage (one of the most common debt problems), commercial foreclosure can put other assets at risk; that is, unless you take steps before to contain the fallout. 

Asset Protection from Liability

The above list has just some of the many sources of liability that can come as a shock. Below are some “Reverse Black Friday” ways to protect what you already own from people coming to collect, including use of business entities, insurance, retirement accounts, homestead exemptions, titling, annuities, and elimination. 

Business Entities 

Business entity types (such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, and more) are a double-edged sword. For example, there is no limit to personal liability if you own a sole proprietorship. A partnership can leave you liable for your partner’s actions, even if you do nothing wrong. 

Business entity types that can limit liability include LLCs—limited liability companies—and corporations. In some cases, a lawsuit can pierce the veil of this protection, but these types of business structures are generally very protective.


You’ve heard it a million times—get insurance, and make sure you get the best type of insurance you can afford. If you can afford umbrella coverage, get it. Do not bet on the odds of something not happening. Homeowner’s insurance, commercial liability insurance, auto insurance, long term care insurance, and more are just some of the many ways you can safeguard yourself. Pay now or pay later.

Retirement Accounts

If you have an ERISA-qualified retirement plan, federal law provides you with unlimited asset protection. If you have an IRA, you are protected for up to $1 million if you go bankrupt. Some states have even more protection, though others have less because they opted out of the Bankruptcy Reform Act. Retirement accounts offer at least some asset protection. 

Homestead Exemptions

Florida is a state that provides a certain amount in home equity if you go bankrupt. You might have to contribute extra to your mortgage payments, but it is worth it, as taking advantage of the homestead exemption is a must-do.


How is your home titled? For example, owning the home as tenants in the entirety with your spouse means that, if one of you gets sued, the creditors cannot force your spouse to sell their interest. The interest isn’t divisible—your home may be protected if your state doesn’t have a sufficient homestead exemption. 


Some states, including Florida, provide protection to assets in cash value life insurance and annuity balances. Florida statute §222.14 protects annuities and their proceeds from creditors. If you don’t have a life insurance policy, annuities protection is a good reason to get one. 


Last but not least, creditors cannot take what you don’t have. Consider transferring title of the asset to someone else—an heir, for example. You can give away (as of 2020) up to $15,000 in gifts without getting taxed. 

This short guide should prove that there is hope for asset protection, but you need to act now before anything has happened (or could happen). The best time to protect your assets is before the source of liability strikes—after that, it is often too late. 

Find out more about asset protection when you visit our website.

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Thanksgiving: A Time to be Thankful & Responsible 

Posted by on Nov 22, 2020 in Legal News |

Did you know that Thanksgiving dates back to 1621? In 1621, the Wampanoag Native Americans and Pilgrim colonizers shared a meal together at Plymouth Plantation. Contrary to popular belief, the meal didn’t exactly start as a sit-down dinner. The Plymouth Pilgrims were shooting off guns to celebrate an unknown occasion, and the nearby Wampanoag tribes went to investigate the sound. The groups met and cautiously ended up eating together. 

It wasn’t until the 1860s that President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday, trying to further a narrative that would bring the country together during the Civil War. 

Now, centuries later, we all sit down for a day of food, football, and family. Speaking of family, there’s no denying that they are probably the most important part of your life. When thinking about being thankful, there are ways to show that thankfulness all year ‘round—including after you’re gone.

What happens after you die?

This might sound like a heady philosophical question, but don’t worry; it’s not. We’re really just referring to what happens to your estate after you pass away. Do you have a will? Do you know what will happen to your property—cash, assets, real estate, etc.? 

Asset Protection 

If you die without a will, your assets will be unprotected. A probate court will divvy up what you own and use your assets to pay off creditors. Your family will get what’s left. Though a last will and testament is one way to provide instructions for asset protection, there are other means of doing so as well, including: trusts, gifts, and college funds. Picking your power(s) of attorney and legal guardians for your kids are two other important legal tools.


One of the best things about trusts is how varied they are. A trust is a three-party relationship where the donor transfers legal title of an asset to a trustee, who holds the asset for the benefit of the beneficiary. At the donor’s specification (such as when he or she dies or when the beneficiary turns eighteen), the trustee will hand over legal title to the beneficiary.

Though this sounds simple, there are many different types of trusts. The most common include revocable, irrevocable, asset protection, charitable, construction, special needs, spendthrift, and tax bypass. And that list is by no means exhaustive. An estate planning attorney can help you determine which trust is best for your financial situation. Visit our website and learn more about estate plans and trusts.


As of 2020, in America, you can give away $15,000 in gifts to as many people as you want without having to pay tax or report the giveaways. Once you hit the $15,000 threshold, you must file a tax return for the gift(s). Gifts can include money, real estate, property, or cars. Giving gifts of under $15,000 helps you legally avoid taxation on assets, while still benefitting your loved ones.

College Plans

The IRS allows people to save money in tax-advantaged college savings’ programs, called 529 plans. Depending on your state, this tuition money can be used for in- or out-of-state tuition or for private and public schools. Again, this depends on the state. 529 plans are a good way to get a head start on your kids’ future. 

Powers of Attorney

Though it’s important to protect your assets and property for your family after you pass on, the postmortem protection isn’t the end of the story. Pre-mortem arrangements, such as picking a power of attorney, mean that you will have a trusted person in charge of your financial and medical decisions if you are too incapacitated to make them yourself. It might go without saying, but self-protection is just as important as asset protection. 


Finally, if you have minor kids, you need to arrange legal guardianship for them in the event of a worst-case scenario. Talk to your proposed guardian and make sure they are on-board with your plan before drawing up the papers.

Though this list is by no means exhaustive, it hopefully helps provide the basics for keeping your family safe and secure, no matter what happens.  

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2020 Is (Finally) Wrapping Up

Posted by on Nov 9, 2020 in Legal News |

One thing 2020 has not been is boring—aside from the months spent in quarantine, that is. 2020 is coming to an end, which is something that pretty much everyone can be grateful for. There are loose ends to wrap up before January 1, 2021 dawns, and, when it comes to your family, these loose ends might include taxes: income, estate, and gift. 

Income Tax

While we all know what income tax is, you might have a couple after-the-fact questions about the process itself, such as: 

When do I get my refund? 

Your tax refund usually comes within 21 days after you electronically file your tax return. If you file paper tax returns, your refund is issued within 42 days. The IRS has introduced a “Where’s my refund?” tool on its website that will help you track your refund status. Though you can call the IRS if your refund is late, note that the chances of getting to talk to a customer service representative are slim to none, as the IRS is very busy during this time.

The IRS suggests that you wait at least 21 or 42 days after electronic or paper filing to contact the 1-800-829-1954 hotline. Additionally, if you’re trying to find out where your refund is, there is an IRS2Go mobile app. 

If your refund is delayed, there might be a few reasons. It’s possible that the check, if you received a paper one, was lost in the mail or even stolen. The IRS must confirm the check was lost or stolen before issuing a new one. If your refund was direct-deposited, there might be a problem with the bank information you put in. The IRS can contact your bank to try to help.

Before panicking, give it some time. Though mistakes with refunds happen, that’s not the case for the majority of delays. Usually, it comes down to the government moving slowly. It’s been a hectic year, and, as we all know, everything takes a little longer because of the pandemic. Also, it is an election year. The USPS is giving first priority to mail-in ballots. Other mail comes second.

What if I did my taxes wrong? 

Visions of jail time might dance in your head, but that’s actually a very, very, very unlikely possibility, especially if the mistake was just that—an unintentional accident. The IRS catches and fixes most errors itself, alerting you about the mistake after they fix it and telling you what they did to rectify it. 

If you catch it before they do, you can solve the error through the electronic filer, or you can use form 1040X to amend your tax return. Missing forms (two of the most common mistakes) is an example of an error that is not automatically solvable. The IRS will alert you of the problem, and you will have to send in the missing form. 

You aren’t the first person to make a mistake on your taxes, nor will you be the last. A mistake is not that big of a deal. You won’t have to redo your entire return unless the whole thing is wrong.

Estate Tax

Next up, and slightly more complicated—if you can believe it—is estate tax. This is a tax on the right to transfer your property after you die, which means that your relatives or lawyer will be the one worrying about it if it’s your estate. 

How does the IRS calculate estate tax? 

The IRS calculates estate tax by taking an accounting of everything you own or in which you have interests at the date of your death, including trusts, insurance, annuities, real estate, cash, and more. The fair market value of the tallied items is used to compute the total, which is the “Gross Estate.” From the “Gross,” there are certain deductions you can take, depending on the estate. After that’s settled, the “Taxable Estate” is what’s left, and that is the total from which the IRS takes the tax.

Who must file?

The requirements for filing have increased. In 2021, if your estate is worth over $11.7 million, you must file an estate tax return. That number has been increased from $11.58 million in 2020, and the previous years have also been increased. For more information, you can look at the IRS’ Form 706 Instructions. 

Gift Tax

Finally, there is a gift tax. Gift tax is a tax on the property or money that someone gives to someone else. You are legally required to report gifts over $15,000. Don’t bother trying to hide a gift, because if you get audited, you will end up paying not only the correct tax, but also likely a fine. The gift tax exclusion lets you give away $15,000 in assets or cash to as many people as you want. Gifts can include stocks, land, cash, cars, and more. Once you hit the limit, you must report and pay taxes on it. 

This article is not the be-all, end-all of the many ways the government can tax you. As with everything in law, there are a million and one details and exceptions to these laws. However, this is a basic primer that might help you tie up any loose taxation ends that you might be facing. As always, it never hurts to hire a lawyer to help you with tax matters. It’s cheaper to do it right the first time than to fix costly mistakes. Visit our website to learn more.

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